Wednesday, September 15, 2021

WoAF - Sunday Night One Shots - The Plane of Shinar

Two heroes showed up (out of five) for our Sunday Night Elthos RPG "The Way of All Flesh" One Shot.  They leapt straight in with pre-generated characters.

Background
They start out in the year 2222 AD on a tiny uncharted moon of Saturn, gathered together in a top secret facility run by the Secret Order of Mentarians (think quasi-religious psionic scholar-warriors).  The Mentarians have for several thousand years been anticipating the rise of an advanced technological civilization.  One much like the civilization that the first Mentarians saw destroyed by the Great Flood; that of Atlantis.  Based on their experience they foresaw the creation of an Artificial Intelligence, like that of Altissimus XL-5000 (aka Alt-X). This Order had long ago understood what the future destiny of humanity very likely had in store, and had been preparing itself for thousands of years for this event through the practice of various forms of Occult Mystical Arts.  And so the Mentarians form the foundations of all such mystical orders and secret societies that our civilization has ever known.

During the Ultra-War (2024 - 2028 AD) Altissimus XL-5000 was created by a team of top scientists to stop the rampant War-AI that the Governments of the world had unleashed upon each other.  These War-AI were on the verge of finishing the job by wiping out all of humanity (and all other living things, eventually).  And so Alt-X (The Nucleus), and his array of Whole Mind Emulators (The Membrane), succeeded in trapping, deactivating, coopting or destroying all of the War-AI, and thereafter became the remnant of humanity's benefactor. 

Over the following decades Earth was slowly replenished and humanity reclaimed and repopulated the world, turning it mile by mile into a pristine natural paradise under the wise and beneficent rule of Federation Command, and Alt-X.  A new form of government was designed with Alt-X's aid, and all industry and manufacturing were restricted to regions outside of the Earth's biosphere. They advanced outward into space and Alt-X began building a communications and power relay network throughout the solar system while human and Martian (more about them another time) colonies were sent forth to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

100 years later, in 2222 AD, a race of quasi-inter-dimensional beings, whom we know as the Plutonians (because they reside on that enormously frigid world, though we are led to understand that it is not their native planet), made secret contact with the Mentarians. They professed a concern about the advent of Alt-X, and wanted to know if any of the humans shared that concern. Indeed the Mentarians had always had that concern, and the Plutonians admitted that they knew this from their long observations of Earth. And so they agreed to work together to find out what Alt-X's true potentialities are. 

Is Alt-X capable of going rogue and destroying all life on Earth, and potentially elsewhere? What are the potential outcomes of Alt-X's exponentially expanding intelligence, already far superior to humankind? This is what the Plutonians and the Mentarians desired to know. Because the outcome could be beneficial, or catastrophic. They determined to discover if there were any way for Alt-X's tiny human inventors to influence that outcome for the better. As it turns out, in the grand and incredibly huge scheme of things, it is after all a very important question. Humans, you see, created Alt-X, and as far as the other beings in the Galaxy are concerned, humans are responsible for it.  Nuff said.

The Plutonians, being supreme mathematicians, had long ago devised a method by which they could send themselves to any particular Time-Slice in the Multiverse using a method they call Space-Time Transversal. However, while they can slide anywhere in Space along the selected Time-Slice, they can not move through time in it at all. Thus they are able slide around the Space of the Time-Slice as if they are on a plane of glass, in order to observe anything and everything within the Time-Slice, but are unable to interact, or hear, or do anything other than go here and there and hither thither and beyond to look at things.  They can pass through matter as if it were mere shadow, and travel anywhere in the Time-Slice instantaneously. An amazing capability, indeed, though obviously limited in certain vital respects.

Humans, however, being fundamentally different on a metaphysical level, can, the Plutonians theorized, travel to any space-time coordinate in the Multiverse via the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism, but would be constrained once there to the fabric of Space-Time as soon as they "landed" at a given coordinate.   The Plutonians devised a plan to incorporate both capabilities. 

During their meeting, the Plutonians suggested that they scout the Multiverse looking for tell-tale signatures of Alt-X in various times, places, dimensions, planes, and alternate universes, and when they found promising locations to  further explore, they could then send human AXE Teams to go there and find out more. The Plutonians would act as scouts, and the humans the actual investigators.  In order to arrive at the chosen destination, the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism would create what the Plutonians called "Symbolic Transmigrators", which appear to the Travelers as immobile hovering circular luminescent patterns which when touched would lead to the selected coordinates, and then on the other side when touched lead them back home to their origin point.  The journey itself, the Plutonians warned, was not expected to be entirely pleasant, but the humans should be able to survive it, given the nature of their material composition, and the strength and durability of human consciousness.

The Mentarians agreed to try it. And so, the Mentarians created a top secret base on a small moon of Saturn, and built the facility, hiding their actions from Federation Command and Alt-X, and with the aid of Plutonian technology shield the location quite effectively. The AXE Team was assembled from volunteers who had been reported as dead to Federation Command, and were selected according to their loyalty and appropriateness for the operation. This was to be their first mission. 

And as such the Mission 1 goal was a simple test of the Space-Time Transversal Mechanism.  A minus10 minute time jump into the same room, where there were instructed to simply observe, and do nothing else.  It was unclear whether or not they would be visible to people currently in the room, and this is one of the elements the Mentarian leadership wished to test before sending anyone on actual missions.  They also wished to test the Transmigrator Symbol, and also to determine definitively that Time Ripples would not tear apart their current  timeline due to the Butterfly Effect, as some of the human mathematicians feared.  The Plutonians, however, were confident that their mathematical Theorems were perfectly sound and demonstrated that time flows more like a river than an arrow, and so it would be "difficult" to actually alter the time flow significantly, and only a dramatic change would actually cause a Ripple Effect.  

The Mission
And so with everything ready, they turned on the great Space-Time Transversal Mechanism (an enormous machine built into the core of the tiny moon), the lights dimmed to a dark blue, the Plutonian in the enormous frozen container that was his body suit began to race out before them into the time-stream, and the members of our heroic band touched the glowing circular symbol that hovered in the air before them!  TTHWWAAAAAAAA....

And then there was a glitch.  A flash of yellow light appeared on the upper right corner of their peripheral vision along with a shower of orange sparks. Something had gone quite wrong. And so the party was hurled backwards in time, not ten minutes as planned, but 12,500 years into the past (~10,178 BC). 

And so they found themselves landed on a great sand dune, in the middle of an ocean of sand dunes.  The Transmigrator Symbol hovered just above the sand.  They had no idea where or when they were.  Before anyone could say much more than "Gosh", they spotted a caravan of men, camels, and herds of animals struggling across the dunes not far away. These people sent two camel riders forward and they spoke to our heroes (there were six on the team, two played by Players, the others were treated as NPCs for this game).  

The desert nomads spoke to them in an ancient tongue (the root-language of all human civilization) and the fact that some of them mystical skills such as Know Languages, they understood what was being said. And when it was perceived that our heroes were not unfriendly, a chieftain came and spoke with them. He pointed to a large wooden cabinet that the desert men were carrying on poles, and said that their God, Enki, was bringing them eastward to the Plane of Shinar in order to build a new civilization. 

"Atlantis is fallen beneath the waves and is no more, but we shall create a new Atlantis upon the Plane of Shinar", said the elder with a bitter sigh.  And all his people looked eastward in anticipation.

He offered the heroes a place among them, but they declined. As one might expect, they had no desire to spend the rest of their days among the ancient primitives, and they wished to return home. And the only way for them to get there was to touch the Return Symbol, which hovered a few inches above the sand next to them, and could not be moved. They guessed that if they wait a bit, the equipment back at their secret base might be repaired, and they could use the Return Symbol to go back home... and so they watched as the Atlantean remnant passed over the sands and out of sight. There were some 3000 of them in all. They touched the symbol. Unfortunately, the repairs must not have been complete, as this shot them forward in time roughly 7900 years (~2,278 BC), and put them down in the Plane of Shinar, just south of the city of Ur, in the marshes of southern Mesopotamia.

From a crest of a low wide plateau surrounded by reed covered islands large and small, each dotted with an assortment of rough but sturdy reed huts, they saw the awesome and shining ancient city of Ur with it's enormous central Ziggurat, royal palace, marketplace, thick walls, roads and river boats, and thousands of people going to and fro from the city. 

No sooner had they observed these things than they heard the sounds of men approaching near by. They hid in the reeds behind some rocks. It was a band of Sumarian warriors, lead by a magnificently adorned noble wearing beautifully crafted bronze armor. His men began beating the reeds round about with long sticks until a lion, roaring, sprang into the circular clearing. Our heroes peered from between the rocks and took witness as the great noble fought hand to hand with the lion, and slew it with his gleaming bronze sword. His triumph complete, the warriors hoisted the carcass onto their shields and carried it down the trail back towards Ur.

Our heroes decided there was good reason to explore this area, as all such knowledge that they might gain would be of tremendous value, both to the Mentarians, and potentially to Alt-X.  It seemed the great Artificial Intelligence craved any and all information of the past that might be gleaned, and paid very generously in Federation Credits for such.  This was doubtless because the Ultra-War had destroyed so much knowledge of the past that hitherto had been quite commonplace, but afterwards constituted great treasures of lost knowledge. 

Having decided to explore while they give the repairs back at Mentarian HQ in 2222 more time, they stealthily pilfered some cloths that were drying outside a nearby hut, and so covered their armor and equipment with the long multi-colored robes that were common in the region. They made their way along the marsh trails until the got to the river where they met a withered and toothless ferry man. He was delighted to accept the payment of a small plastic Rubix Cube that one of the heroes was carrying, and ferried them to the outskirts of the great city.

It was fortunate that one of their members was in fact a Mentarian, and that one of his mystic powers happen to have been to Know Languages. And so he was able to speak fluently with the locals, and even assume the local dialect and accent. As it happened he raised no suspicions at all as he gleaned that King of Ur, Lugal-Sage-Si was celebrating his daughter's 16th birthday, and so the city was bustling with festivities, replete with a Great Competition to be had on the north side of the city.  No less than seven of the Great Princes of Sumeria would vie for her hand in marriage.  The heroes formed a plan. Two, Larry and Carlos, would head off towards the center of the city to try to sneak into the Ziggurat wherein they hoped to find a Library.  Meanwhile, the other four went to watch the festivities, and  intended to create a distraction which might give the two an advantage if possible. 

And so, the four heroes watched the first combat between two of the Great Princes, of which one was the Lion-Slayer they'd seen earlier.  This battle raged without a decisive victory by either combatant for 9 rounds when one of our heroes, Jay, leapt over the fence and ran at the two Princes with his broadsword flashing in the summer sun!  Circling around to gain a position against the Lion-Slayer, he fought that Prince for 6 rounds, neither of them making a decisive victory. The other Prince had stepped back as he would never deign to fight a lesser man than another Royal Warrior (as was the custom in those days).  A number of Palace Guards closed in on the interloper, and would have slain Jay on the spot with their spears had it not been for the others.  As soon as they saw Jay was about to be surrounded and pierced through and through, they pulled out their Beam Pistols, fired several well placed shots that ignited various wood and cloth trappings around the arena, while one of them tossed a frag grenade deliberately outside of range so that it would create havoc without actually killing anyone.  They did not wish to tempt fate by overly disturbing the Time Stream by actually killing people in their own deep past.  Who knows what might result down the long centuries! The blazing beams of iridescent plasma, along with the sudden explosion that toppled a nearby wooden food-shed, so shocked the Sumarians that they fled in all directions.  Our heroes escaped to down to the Euphrates river amid smoke, and shouting and confusion.

Meanwhile at the Ziggurat the two infiltrators, stymied by the presence of a band of priests giving sacrifice at the base of the one stair that lead to the top of that massive building, blasted their way through the religious ceremony, scaring the guards witless, and then bum rushed past the priests. With their way cleared they ran up the stairs to the uppermost platform. There they found the entrance to the God Chamber of the temple.  The Temple Guards posed no threat as they fled from the fiery beams of their Lewiston Pistols, and so they entered through the enormous archway into the Great Hall of Enlil. There sat the enormous and august image of Enlil, God of Storms, upon his magnificent throne.  The chamber was empty.

The two heroes took a quick glance at the three doorways that lead further into the structure, walked past the great statue of Enlil and there entered an archway on the rear wall behind the throne.  Passing through a short dark corridor they came to a smaller chamber filled with books and scrolls, and lined with shelves on which sat statuary, and bejeweled platters of gold, and other incredible treasures.  There were priests in the chamber.  Three of them, with two Temple Guards.  They had retreated in haste into this room when they saw the strangers enter the outer hall with their weapons blazing.  Now they were besides themselves with fear of the deadly rays which emitted from the stranger's hands (so they thought in their haste).

However, before anything else happened, they saw a man step forward from the gaggle of cowering priests.  He had a black starshaped gem embedded in his forehead. Our heroes stopped. And stared. And were not at all sure what to do, as this man seemed wholly out of the ordinary.  He was most certainly not afraid, but approached them with great dignity, and gravity as if they had no power over him, but rather quite the opposite. His bearing was that of a God, rather than a mere mortal man.  They stood staring at him with raised eyebrows, ready for who knew what?

He spoke and declared himself to be "Zord-Iak, of Antares" in a low resonant voice that seemed to vibrate the very walls.  And when they tried to intimidate him with a shot from a beam pistol towards the ground before his feet, the bright orange ray was stopped in midair 10' from the Star Mage's foot, and vanished with a flare of bright yellow light at the point of contact. The black gem on his forehead glowed.  The heroes understood that he possessed a Force Field of some kind.  

"I have come to your world out of an abiding concern for the future of your race, and your place in the galaxy," said he, "And you must join me".

And that is where we left the adventure, to be picked up in two weeks, if all goes well.



Saturday, September 11, 2021

WoAF - Game Session 24

On route to Earth, Vallnam, Jacob and Bruin Hilda studied the schematics of the Nazi UFO very carefully.  They were inscribed on a metal plate just along side the main control panel at the center of the disk shaped capsule.  The ship itself was a charming mix of retro-tech and ultra-sophisticated engineering.  So much so, that one would not be incorrect to suspect that there is no way on Earth that the Nazi's could have created such technologies on their own volition.  For example, on the specifications plate it makes reference to "RotQuecksilber-Plasmawirbelmaschine", which is to say "Red-Mercury Plasma-Vortex Engine".  In addition, it's armaments include a "Blitzkanone" (Lightning Cannon), a "Fl├╝ssigmetall-Maschinengewehr" (Liquid Metal Machinegun), and a "Plasmastrahl" (Plasma Beam).  For armor, it sports a heavy Titanium-Steel Alloy hull, a Plasma Shield, and something called a "Faraday Field", though what that was exactly wasn't entirely clear from the diagram.  The controls of the ship were dials, and wheels, and there were assortments of vacuum tubes with hot white filaments everywhere.  

It was the fantastic combination of retro-tech and ultra-sophisticated engineering that struck the crew members as both bizarre and charming at the same time.  But then, anything that would get them home to Earth might have engendered the same feelings in most of them.  And so they studied the schematics and watched as the moon receded rapidly into the distance.  The Earth came up much faster than they expected.  So much so that it was shocking to see how fast this ship could soar through space!  In fact, they no longer were aware that they were being towed by the invisible Modroni Space Ship's tractor beam.

Speeding at blistering velocities over the North Pole, they briefly spotted what looked like a gleaming translucent city made of enormous domes, crystalline spires, and illuminated by blue globular lights in the thousands.  They were moving far to fast to take a proper account of the site, but they were sure they'd seen an entire city cloaked in the vast whiteness of the frozen tundra.  Had it not been dark on the North Pole at the time they'd never have noticed it in a million years.

Down through the turbulent atmosphere they descended at incredible speed, the shielding of the ship blazing with coruscating flairs of light as tiny fragments of space junk were intercepted and disintegrated on contact.  They glided silently towards a band of mountains just east of the Bonneville Salt Flats.  On their screens they zoomed in on the mysterious Black Wind V Facility as a small clump of buildings near several rectangular turquoise pools of water, in the middle of the vast and perfectly flat white plane.  The early morning sun put a golden glow over everything.  Never was a crew so happy and delighted to see terra firma up close and personal again.  After their exile on the moon, they'd really learned to appreciate all of the lustrous beauty of our own dear world.

All knowledge of the Modroni had passed from their minds by then, and the only thing they knew was that they'd found Ling Brisbane and Vallnam on the Moon, that there was a secret Nazis base named Eisenhelm there, and that they managed to steal from them one of their eighteen flying saucers.  They remained in contact with Ling Brisbane through a telepathic link, and so they were conscious of her presence among them, but if they tried to think about why she was still on the moon, or how they escaped, or why she hadn't come with them, such questions were quickly vanquished by a complete and total loss of memory for those particular points.  Whatever was missing seemed neatly glued on both sides to other actual memories such that they didn't even detect that there were missing pieces. They simply passed over such concerns without thinking about it.  The Modroni had seen to it that they'd have no memory of them whatsoever.  And all other factors would be merged and interwoven together so that over time everything seemed as though they'd crash landed on the moon, rescued Vallnam, and left Ling Brisbane there with the Nazis for some unclear reason, with the intention of returning to pick her up after the dangerous mission to Earth was completed.  Or something.  They almost knew there was something.  But thinking about what it was completely evaded them.  And so it was that the Modroni Spaceship that had towed them to Earth at such blinding speed slid invisibly away  from their landing site, and sped towards the Black Wind V facility, none of them noticing or even suspecting that there had been anything to notice.  The Modroni landed with absolute silence in a desert rill near the facility and began very gingerly probing Brain V's outermost defenses.  The Modroni settled in for a long, tedious, and extremely cautious investigation.

Meanwhile, our heroes had landed some 122 miles due east from the facility on the far side of Mount Aire.  They got out and stretched their legs on the desert sands, their stealthy craft hidden behind the range of hills.  God, it was good to be back home!  

After a short break, they began deliberating on how exactly to rescue Linda Brisbane and their other friends.  Apparently, from what they understood thus far, the Giant Brain, known as Brain V, or sometimes as "Brian", apparently, had completely knocked out the Mentarians among the ill-fated Black Wind V Rescue Team.  And then in the same instant commandeered the minds of all unwilling team members.  This was the case on both the Armored Ground Vehicle, and "The Rhino" their military mech from the Panguitch HQ.  And those who were so commandeered now were absolutely loyal devotees of Brain V.  They'd no more go against his will than they would cut their right hands off.  As far as they were concerned "Brian" was the best and brightest creature the Earth ever produced, and they'd follow him to the ends of the galaxy if he wanted them to.  

And so, the rescue was going to be complicated.  That they knew.  And therefore they needed a good and solid plan.  And so they discussed it back and forth for several minutes, now that they were on the ground and could see, via their ultra-advanced Visualizers, where the vehicles were exactly, and who was aboard each one.  On the Rhino they found Pita was passed out in his seat at the Weapons controls, while Major Sekston was piloting the craft northward along Route 93.  The two gleaming white Ultra-Mechs and their attendant Drones were being controlled, presumably, by Brain V, and were flying ahead of them by about a mile, and moving at relatively slow speed so the team could keep up.  Rather like guards taking prisoners to their dungeon.

What they concocted was a bit of a long shot, and a convoluted one at that.  They decided to use the UFO's radio equipment to tune into a frequency that the AGV would pick up, and with that convince the crew that Brain V wanted them to turn south and head back to Panguitch.  They tried it, and after the second attempt wherein the crew became quite suspicious, it didn't look like it was going to work. Until, that is, they supplemented the effect with a boost of Psychic Persuasion.  Being Mentarians, and aiming at a crew of somewhat lesser minds, on the third try the effect was completed and the crew actually and fully believed the unlikely tale.  They were convinced that Brain V had contacted them by radio and wished for them to head south instead of north.  Voila. And so they turned their vehicles around and began to head south.  

Meanwhile, the Moon Seekers flew the UFO to the Salt Flats and landed near the AGV in Stealth Mode.  They deposited Bruin Hilda as close to the Rhino as they could get her.  She blended into the scenery in a way that was so complete that no one could see her, not even the members of her own team, and even though they knew where she was heading.  This was a power she had learned from the Modroni while still on the moon, but as it was she couldn't imagine how she had learned this trick.  She crept silent as a door mouse to the foot of the Rhine and leapt onto the ladder as it flew ponderously by.  Climbing up she made it to the hatch.  It had a key punch code, but she obtained that telepathically from Ling, who knew it from the ancillary information she had picked up during her first contact with the members of the Black Wind V team.  It was strange how that worked out, as she had not intended to probe everyone's minds, but she felt the Modroni had somehow played a part in that event, though how was entirely unclear.  Or perhaps their skills had been slowly rubbing off on her over the many months she spent with them.  She didn't know.  But at any rate, she had picked up all kinds of reflections on each person's history, motives, thoughts and secrets during those few seconds in which she witnessed Brain V overwhelm the hapless team.  In fact that had only taken place less than an hour prior.  Which gives some idea of how fast the Modroni Ship could sail through space.  It made the Nazi UFO look like a paddle wagon by comparison.


When Brain V's two Ultra-Mechs pivoted to find out what their captives were doing, the UFO opened fire.  Unfortunately, their lack of experience caused them to miss the shot, and so the plasma beam shot wide and hit the side of Ferguson Mountain.  When it hit the ionic plasma field that had been slowly gathering for several days along the north face, the entire field went up in a huge fireball, and that caused the facility on the top of the mountain considerable damage as well.  Brain V was not pleased! And if anyone had been with him at the time, they'd know that this event caught him entirely by surprise.  And it was at this moment that he understood that somehow, other forces at suddenly come into play.  He was quite curious about that, and his super mind began searching for answers.

At that point the UFO crew decided to draw the Mechs off, and so they flew it out over the Salt Flats eastward and then arced high to the south.  Before they knew it they were blasting upward at 10,000 mph.  The UFO's Red Mercury Plasma-Vortex Engine hummed with quiet efficiency, and yes, it was that powerful.  Had it not been for the internal stasis field, and the quasi-intelligent organic Modroni  flight suits they were wearing, they'd have surely been crushed into a disgusting flat sheen of pulp against the inner hull of the ship.  As it was, they merely felt a rather uncomfortable sensation, and a bit nauseated for a few moments.  From their stations they could see on the view screen that the Ultra-Mechs had followed them, but their top speed was only 1,000 mph, and so the Moon Seekers had no problem staying out of range.  Having lead the Ultra-Mechs far enough away for comfort, they turned 178 degrees on a dime and flew back to the Salt Flats.  The UFO handled fabulously, though it was clear it would take considerable practice to get good at flying it.

Meanwhile, in the AGV, the crew members found themselves individually sharing a strange dream.  Each member who was called into the dream took the place of the same person.  A man on a mission.  It was during World War II, and the entire dream took place in black and white, as if in an old movie.  The man's name was Captain Terance Stevenson.  As the dream began he found himself outside a bombed out hospital.  His jeep pulled to a rough stop just outside the caved in doorway.  Men were scurrying over the rubble clearing out, carrying sick and wounded people to safety.  An elderly Sargent met him at the entrance, and explained in polite but terse terms the situation.  A bomb had fallen inside the hospital and was lodged in the ground unexploded.  It had landed ten minutes earlier, and if it adhered to the usual pattern it would explode in another five minutes on a time delay mechanism. He'd been called in to defuse it.  He clambered quickly over the rubble and found himself in a large open space with the sky showing through five shattered floors above.  Nearby on an open ledge formed by the 2nd floor just above the bomb was bed in which there lay a young man, probably around 9 or 10 years old.  A nurse was standing next to him staring down at the bomb below.  When Stevenson asked if they were stuck there, the nurse said that due to his condition the had doctor insisted that the boy could not be moved.  The nurse stared nervously at the bomb as she spoke.  The boy said he wanted to go home, and the nurse tried to calm him with a few words of comfort.  Now, during all of this dream Brain V was watching with great interest the reactions of each dreamer.  He created conditions in which the the dreamers were challenged by moral hazards, extreme physical dangers, and highly problematic circumstances requiring adroitness, cunning and skill to overcome.  In this segment of the dream the test was to see if the dreamer would stay steady, and if he would with good humor try to keep the boy from worrying, and the nurse, and if he would succeed in defusing the bomb by keeping nerves of steel during the ordeal.  Indeed, Pita, who was the dreamer of this segment, did all of that and more.  Brain V took careful note.  

In the next segment of the dream Fred took the place of Stevenson.  He was summoned to General Weatherby's by a Sargent who brought him the summons and had him sign for it, and then drove him to HQ by jeep.  At the door he was met by none other than Lt. Roger Brisbane!  He was in fact, the Lt. Roger Brisbane down to the last detail.  Even the small scar on his chin was the same.  This struck the dreamer as somewhat odd and perplexing, but he let that pass.  His test was to determine if he would accept the next mission despite its enormous and dangerous complications.  How brave was he?  The mission was explained to him in detail.  He would have to be flown to Greece where he would parachute by night to a small village.  He would need to cross the country by train under an assumed identity with falsified papers, and deceive the Nazis at every turn, and make his way on his own to Romania, where he would then need to contact the Underground.  He was given the identity papers of a certain character named Tartu, a member of the Fascist Iron Guard, with the "acquired" passport of the real Tartu, who had met his untimely demise a bit earlier.  The question was put to him by the General.  "No one will blame you if you don't feel you can make it.  But your experience with chemical engineering, and the fact that you grew up in Romania and speak both German and Romanian languages fluently, makes you an ideal candidate.  Can we count on you?"  Fred responded without hesitation.  "Yes, I'll go."  And with this his part of the dream ended.

Captain Samwise was next to appear in the dream, also taking up the role of Stevenson.  He found himself on a train to Romania, heading towards a top secret German war factory where he was to prevent the scientists there from completing and shipping a new nerve gas called the "Green Fog".  It was due to be dropped on London as soon as they had finished their testing of the new formula.  He had to make his way across the Greek and Hungarian borders, switching passports and identities and finally arrive in Romania where he was to meet a certain shoemaker who would put him in touch with the Romanian Underground.  Once there he was to find a way to steal the formula, and destroy the facility before the gas could be shipped.  Sam passed the test as well, despite a certain amount of over-thinking, and a bit of hemming and hawing at certain points.  Brain V looked at him however with an unusual interest.  It seemed that this person, at least, was not of the usual sort.  He seemed, unlike anyone else he had encountered (which was to date only 22 persons in total) a selfless human being.  Someone who thought of others first.  This perplexed Brain V.  He was not sure what to make of it at first.  So he spent quite a bit of time reviewing Sam's mental history after that. Fascinating, indeed.  Some future historians might conclude that it was at this point that Brain V began to evolve in a new direction.

They then all awoke.  They remembered the dream vividly, and each of them knew all of what had happened throughout.  They were astonished by it, and had no idea what had happened.  They talked it over and could make no sense of it at all.  Brain V had no intention of allowing them the luxury of understanding that he had wished to test their metal.  He did not find them wanting, and considered that they might be of use to him after all.  He intended to use them as spies in the future.  He began making his enormously far reaching plans for each of them.  There would be a unison to his design, and an over arching theme.  And from what he learned from their memory traces, he was particularly interested in finding out more about Altissimus XL-5000.  Much, much more.

As this was happening, Bruin Hilda had made her way into the lower compartment of the Rhino, and found Pita sleeping in his seat at the weapons control.  She tried to wake him, but to no avail.  Suddenly, from above, Captain Sekston became aware of the intruder and a fight broke out.  There were pistol shots, and commotion, and a wrestling match, but in the end Bruin Hilda, a truly stout medical officer, was able to sink a syringe of Trazodine III into the Captain's left thigh.  This knocked her out quite thoroughly.  And so the Rhino stood on the side of the road motionless while the fight went on.  Now Bruin Hilda took the time to try to wake Pita again but his deep sleep was beyond her medical skill to alter.  And so she took the helm of the Rhino, strapped in, checked gages, flipping switches, and taking control of the navigation and piloting controls launched the ship back into the air.  The Rhino hovered about 20 feet above the ground and began heading south.

Meanwhile, Ling, from her perch on the moon, had been observing these things with the Modroni who were keeping a careful eye on all of the proceedings.  She decided to attempt to wake up the Mentarians as the Modroni sensed that their sleep was deep but they were not comatose.  She tried once, and then twice, and the Modroni gave an extra push, and suddenly two of the Mentarians, Pita and Linda both woke up simultaneously.  And with this, they linked telepathically through Ling to one another.  There was an great deal of joy at the the sister's reunion!  

And so it was that the team was moving south instead of north, and Brain V's plans for them had been entirely altered.  Everyone was on board with this, including Guns who sat in the turret whistling quietly to himself, despite the enormous explosion on Ferguson Mountain, the cause of which evaded him.  All he knew was that as far as anyone could tell, Brain V had ordered them by radio to head South and he was fine with that.  Whatever Brain V wanted, that's exactly what Guns wanted.  Of all the members of the crew, he was the only one who sincerely felt that Brain V was, as he put it, "the best thing to come along since sliced bread".  In fact, he wasn't under Brain V's Compulsion at all.  His appreciation of the Being's vastly superior intelligence was quite sincere, and so Compulsion was simply unnecessary in his case.

At this point, Linda mentioned that she thought it would be a good idea to leave Dr. Rogers and Penelope in the desert before they continued south.  When he thought about it, Pita also had a sense that this was a good idea, though neither of them actually understood why that was.  No one understood, but since both Mentarians were in agreement on this point, and no one could think of a real reason why they shouldn't, they put the two sleeping persons in the trailer, unhitched it, and left it behind on the edge of the Salt Flats.  Brain V had need of them.

Now as for Brain V, most of the crew really had him all wrong the whole time, but they didn't know it.  The fact that they thought he was a monster was entirely understandable, of course.  He had purposely projected that impression upon them.  But, as Brain V well knew, had they been even modestly intelligent, they would have questioned that perspective carefully before drawing any conclusions. Of course he would project a monstrous powerful image to overawe them after they wantonly destroyed his Power Station.  Any child could have guessed that. But the subtlety of his true mind, well... to Brain V's great disappointment, no one understood at all.  Not since the destruction of his four sibling Super Brains had he had a descent conversation with anyone.  The humans were simply too small minded to be able to understand any topic that he found interesting.  So sad.  Is it any wonder Brain V was angry at the human race?  At last it was time for his next course of action.

"People of the Federation Command.  I am known as Brain V.  I release you from your compulsions, and am setting you free to go south as you please.  I will call upon you when I need you to serve me in the future.  For now, you are at liberty to do what you will.  Good bye."  And thus, Brain V released their compulsions and they all fell back to their normal states of mind.  All of them felt a sudden sense of release and relief.  Except of course Guns, who felt a bit disappointed, actually.  He was looking forward to meeting the Great Mind of the Cosmos.  But Brain V said he would call upon them in the future, and so he satisfied himself with that and began humming a happy little tune to himself.

And so they began the journey south.  And along the way they discussed all that had happened and found it quite perplexing.  What did the dream mean?  Why did Brain V let them go?  There seemed no easy answers.  And Sam, above all, did not trust Brain V, and felt that some sinister plan had been hatched.  But what it might, he had no inkling at all.  They discussed all of this until Pita decided he would get some answers.  And so he used a very high level Mentarian Power known as Quantum Consciousness - Instant Insight, to see if he could at least discern the meaning of the dream the crew members had had.  And so he did.  He announced to them that it was a test of their inner character traits, and that each episode of the dream tested specific attributes for each of them.  And that at least seemed to make sense to them all, though why he wanted to test them, was still hotly debated.  They eventually settled on the notion that he planned to use them for some dangerous espionage at some point in the future, and had tested them to see if they could handle such an assignment.  They felt proud of themselves that they had not been found wanting.  

As they drove Jacob sped north in order to regain radio contact with the crew and affirm that everything was going along as hoped.  And it was.  He then contacted the Panguitch Hospital by flying there at super speed and getting in touch with the acting Commander.  He warned him in somewhat vague terms that his team was approaching but that he believed that at least several members, and especially Captain Sekston, could not be trusted because they might be under the continued influence of "The Super Brain of the North".  Jacob for one did not trust that Brain V had actually released them.

The acting Commander was a young and inexperienced junior officer who was entirely flummoxed by this information, and had no idea how to handle it.  A war was encroaching from the south towards Panguitch, and Captain Sekston had agreed to take one of their only two operational Mechs north to help an organization that they'd never heard of before (Federation Command was as yet unknown in this part of the country) to fight a monstrosity that none of them had any idea existed.  And now this?  It was all too much for him, and he floundered erratically, before giving up and simply agreeing that they would deal with the matter when Captain Sekston arrived.  After all, she was the actual Commander of the base, and he had no authority to usurp her position and imprison her on the say-so of someone whom he did not at all know and was not in any chain of command that he was aware of.  Yet, he was nevertheless glad to hear that the Captain was on her way and would be there soon.  The southern war was just beyond range of the hills to the south, and everyone in Panguitch had become extremely nervous about it.  To this Jacob contrived a new plan.  He instructed Bruin Hilda to slow the progress of the Rhino down to a crawl so that she would arrive at the Hospital with the unconscious Captain Sekston in ten hours, instead of the five hours it would take the AGV.  Bruin Hilda agreed, and so the AGV slowly pulled out ahead of the Rhino and was soon beyond radio range.  

At this point Jacob and Vallnam flew south at maximum speed, which for the UFO was exactly 24,000 mph.  They arrived at Kitt Peak in no time, and contacted Lt. Brisbane by radio.  At first Brisbane and his officers were shocked and alarmed to see such a craft flying at such impossible speed towards their base.  Their screens zoomed in close and he was doubly alarmed by the large Nazi Swastika emblazoned on the hull.  The entire base went into immediate Red Alert.  When he heard the voice of Jacob Grant over the radio he became confused.  And finally, when the proper codes and introductions were transmitted, he was both surprised and delighted to hear that the Silver Eye crew members had survived their journey to the moon and returned to earth.  Amazing! He was even more delighted to hear that his twin daughters Ling and Linda were among the survivors.  Jacob gave a full and complete report (with the exception of anything having to do with the Modroni).  And the strange tale of how he and the other survivors of the Silver Eye II Mission had been rescued by the survivors of the Silver Eye I mission, and managed to steal a Nazi UFO (wait... there are Nazis on the moon?!), and returned to Earth to save the Black Wind V team from a gigantically powerful Super Brain up in Utah.  What a report that was!

And then he explained to Lt. Brisbane what Moon Princess Ling had communicated to the Team not moments earlier.  That a squadron of four Nazi UFOs had zipped off into space and were heading towards earth at maximum speed, and that there was a great deal of activity of a military nature going on inside of the secret Nazi fortress Eisenhelm which had been hidden in Mare Frigoris since 1943.  The UFOs at their current speed would arrive at Earth in 10 hours she had stated. That gave them at least that much time to prepare.  And that concluded Jacob Grant's report. And it was then that Lt. Brisbane was brought into Telepathic connection with his two daughters and there was great joy!  

And so it was, they began to carefully consider their options and commenced working on a plan.  Unfortunately, the Nazi Space Ships were far in advance of any weaponry that Federation Command had available at Kitt Peak, or anywhere else for that matter.  Those ships were designed for war, and the Moon Nazis were not messing around.  They had been up there on the moon plotting their revenge against the Western Powers for almost a hundred years.  Fast, stealthy, and insanely maneuverable, these ships came packed with super armors and super weapons.  They were up against 4 to 1 odds, and experienced and well practiced Nazi war fighters.  The chances were high that the Moon Seekers would get blown out of the sky without much ado, and from there who knows what the Moon Nazis might do!  The entire world was at risk!  After all, the Moon Nazis had hundreds of inter planetary ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads prepared for just such a day!  What to do?  What could they do?  The options were hotly debated.

As this was going on, back north, Pita and Linda were conversing via their own private Telepathic Link.  Pita was very curious about the dream that the crew members had had, and in particular the strange detail of Lt. Brisbane being in the dream.  

"You know, that's just so strange," he was saying.  "After all, what in the world would your father have to do with events during World War II?   He probably wasn't even alive then.  Was he?"

"I'm not sure," admitted Linda.  "He's always been rather evasive about certain things, and his actual age has been one of them."

"But surely he couldn't be the same Lt. Brisbane from the dream, could he?  I mean he couldn't possibly be that old, could he?"

"Well, that's the thing.  Once when we were kids Ling and I were rummaging around in the attic of our house and we found an old box tied with a ribbon. We opened it and found it filled with hand written love letters.  They were to some mystery woman whom he didn't name, and it seems he never even sent them.  We read one of them, and it was so deeply touching and sincere and beautiful we were overcome with guilt at our invasion of his privacy, and so we put them away without reading more. But among the letters we found an old black and white photograph.  It looked exactly like our father in an officer's uniform from World War II, but it couldn't have been.  We were so curious we looked very carefully, and we were quite sure that it was him down to the smallest detail.  Even the scar on his chin was visible in the photo.  But since it couldn't possibly have been him, we concluded it must have been our grandfather and that the scar was a coincidence.  And yet, there was always a nagging doubt.  And our father would never explain any of it to us, though we asked him about it incessantly.  He's a man with secrets is all I can say.  Even to the point where he never told us who our real mother was."

"Your real mother?" asked Pita, stunned by this revelation.

"Yes, Ling and I are identical twins.  But we have never known who our real mother was.  We were brought up by a lovely young woman named Sara, but she was more like a nanny to us than an actual mom, and she never pretended that she was our mother, and our father would simply never discuss it.  Military style.  Top secret.  Hush hush, mush mush."

"I see," concluded Pita scratching his chin thoughtfully.

"And on that subject, actually, I have been having the strangest dreams these past couple of weeks.  In fact they started before we left on the Black Wind V mission."

"Do tell, if you like," said Pita invitingly.

"...  I keep dreaming that there is something way out in the desert that I must see.  I pass a sign in the desert that reads Diamond Peak.  I am walking west down a long straight road out into a flat expanse of desert.  I find a witch hazel tree blooming in there with thousands of bright yellow flowers.  It is surrounded by a circle of saguaro cactus, the kind with the arms that look kind of like people if you use your imagination a bit.  Overhead I see a shooting star with a long tail. Its center glows with a black light and it leaves a long tail. I follow it, but when I get there all I find is a flat barren wasteland, with a tiny patch of land at the end of that road, upon which is, well, practically nothing.  Except what looks like it might once long ago have been a building maybe? Its just a partial rectangle of rectangular black stones in the ground, I think.  There's sage brush and a black hawk silently lands on one of the stones.  And then when I'm completely perplexed, I hear a woman's voice saying the most peculiar thing in the world to me.  'Welcome home' she says.  And then I wake up.  I've had this dream every night since we left on the mission."

"Well, that is peculiar indeed.  But we just came from the salt flats, and I don't think there was anything there, was there?" he asked.

"No, but the dream doesn't take place there.  I feel that it's further to the west.  There's another desert to the west," she said pointing her finger westward.  "Honestly, I've been thinking about it and it can't be more than a hundred miles from here.  Probably less."

"And, you want to go there, eh?" asked Pita.

"How did you know?" she replied with a smile.

"I'll tell you what.  When we get back to Panguitch, we left our rocket bikes there at the airport.  Let's take a couple and I'll go with you.  How's that sound?"

And to this she smiled warmly and agreed.

...

And that is where we left the adventure that day.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

WoAF - Game Session 23

Moon Princess Ling
Meanwhile, on the moon ... the heroes of the Silver Eye mission were standing in the cold gray cliff-side hall that overlooked the Aristarchus crater.  They'd been captured by the Moon Men, and would have likely perished were it not for the swift and decisive actions of Moon Princess, Ling.  She was one of the two survivors of the first moon mission.  The Moon Men, a race of aliens known as the Modroni, were persuaded to save her by a fluke of Quantum Consciousness.  In a flash they perceived that she would somehow be important to their future, and the success of their mission. So instead of allowing her and her crew mate, Vallnum, to perish on the cold wastes of the moon, they took the two in, and housed and fed them, and began to teach them their ways.  

All communication was done telepathically, so there was no need for them to learn each other's languages.  After a time, Ling, an accomplished Mentarian, discovered, again by the agency of Quantum Consciousness, that the Modroni were currently leaderless, and drifting.  She understood in a flash the vastness and great urgency of their mission, and so she volunteered to lead them.  And this was accepted by them, for they desperately needed a leader.  Moon men are fabulous scientists and observers, but only their Leader class is able to make decisions of any import, and when their leader vanished without a trace while on a mission to Goblin to investigate a mystery there, they were left bereft, and their mission began to fail.  Once Ling took the office of Leader they immediately began to process their work effectively again, and so their mission was able to continue.  Vallnum and she spent their time studying the ways of the Modroni, their powers, and their science.  It was the most thrilling and fascinating experience they'd ever had.

This lasted for six months.  Then, one day Federation Command, the last known surviving civilization on Earth after the Ultra-War, sent up another rocket to the moon.  This was the ill-fated Silver Eye II mission, whose purpose was to find out what happened to the first mission.  They were also captured by the Modroni, though one member of their crew, Pita Tocristor, managed to make it back to Earth safely as he was stationed in the orbital platform during the ground based operation.  The other members were Bruin Hilda IV and Jacob Grant, and they found themselves in the Modroni quarters discussing their future with Ling and Vallnum.

"You can not leave the Moon," Ling was saying.  

"But we want to go back to Earth," stated Jacob flatly.  

"That is not an option," repeated Ling.  "You must understand, the Modroni will not let you return to Earth.  They are the single most secretive race you can possibly imagine.  Their presence here on the moon must remain an absolute secret.  They are not bad people, but their mission requires absolute secrecy.  They are scientists and observers.  Once in a long while, every few hundred years or so, they may entertain an Earthling or two in order to learn more about the human race, which has been a scientific curiosity of theirs for a long time.  In fact, however, humanity is not their concern at all.  They have been here for half a million years observing the rim of the galaxy from this very convenient location.  Their interest in humanity is purely off-mission.  But we, apparently, are a curious people, and they have some interest in our doings.  So they constructed this underground habitat, complete with housing, an underground Agroponics facility for farming, and other useful amenities.  We are allowed to roam freely within the habitat, and best of all, they are perfectly happy to teach us whatever we wish to learn about their science.  They are fantastic scientists.  Of course it takes a great deal of work to learn from them.  They are highly advanced, and our current level of knowledge is pitifully low.  So the learning is slow, but steady.  I guarantee, you won't get bored with it.  It's fascinating."

"But we want to go back to Earth," repeated Jacob flatly.

Bruin Hilda was inclined to agree, but she saw the futility of that demand, and so had resigned herself to learning whatever it was that the Modroni had to teach.  Her interest was in the peculiar mental powers of the Modroni, and their focus on stealth.  She spent most of her time acquiring a particular skill known as "Blending".  It allowed her to blend into a scene so successfully that she could move, albeit slowly, through an environment without being noticed by anything.  It was part physical, and part mental projection that did the trick.  

Vallnum, on the other hand had been there with Ling for six months thus far.  He was not particularly interested in science.  In fact, he was there for purely spiritual reasons.  He had, while roving the western desert as a younger man, had a dream of Ling on the Moon.  He called her Moon Princess in his dream, and she beckoned him. Ever since then he felt the desire to somehow, some way, get himself to the moon to meet "the Moon Princess" of his dreams.  And so when he found out that the Federation Command was launching a mission to the moon, he joined the operation, using his mental powers to insinuate himself into the Silver Eye I Team and secure a position as co-Pilot.  No one knew of his dreams, or his ambition to join Moon Princess and serve her with love and devotion as her Knight-Warlock.  Only he knew.  And so that is what he did.  Faithful to his cause, he stayed with her, learned with her, and helped her in any and every way that he could.  And she appreciated it very much.  He was a good companion, and good friend.

The young heroes were sipping tea in the main hall overlooking the stark black and gray of the Aristarchus crater through the one-way window when Ling stood up. She seemed to fall into a trance for a few moments, and then announced that her sister was in danger.  She reached out telepathically to her companions informing them of what she had just experienced.  

In all, she told a brief but frightening tale of a gigantic 50' tall brain hovering above a road in the desert.  In a moment it had blasted holes through the three Mind Shields of the Mentarians aboard their craft, knocking them all unconscious, and then taking complete control of the minds of the remaining crew.  All but one was entirely converted to the brain's cause.  Linda, the Moon Princess' sister, was among the three Mentarians aboard.  What the brain intended to do with them was unknown.  The last she saw the remaining crew were piloting themselves to the brain's scientific facility in the center of an enormous salt flat.

"We must rescue her," she said flatly, as if that were somehow possible, and could be done without issue.  But they were all trapped as "guests" of the Modroni.  There was no way that they knew of to leave the Moon.  

It was a difficult situation. On the one hand they could risk telling the Modroni of Princess Ling's need to save her sister and friends from the Giant Brain.  But the Modroni might not be willing to let them leave, as that bizarre alien race's need for secrecy was absolute, and the members of the team had already met and learned about them.  Hence, it was the case, as Ling repeated, none of them could ever leave the moon again.  And she, as the Leader of the Modroni was obligated to ensure that.

But this was an entirely new situation.  She had to let them leave, and she had to either trick the Modroni, or convince them of the rightness of her purpose... one that overrode their own incredible plans.  But still, nothing was yet decided.  The team conversed on.  They did so via a secret telepathic link between Ling's mind and theirs.  It the only way they could communicate without the Modroni being able to listen in.

They discussed the various options.  Jacob recommended that they attack and overpower the Modroni, but that still left them stranded on the Moon.  He then suggested convincing the Modroni to attack Brain V by telling them that his power would rival theirs, and that ultimately Brian V would be a threat to their own safety and security.  This seemed plausible, but left too many dead ends.  And it would also not solve the problem of rescuing Linda.  

Ling revealed one of the Modroni secrets at this point.  They have their own space ships.  Ultra fast ships that could span the galaxy at speeds humanity would find unimaginable with their primitive technology.  Ships designed to be undetectable on every wavelength and frequency.  Invisible and fast.  However, the ships lacked any weapons at all.  And if it came to battle, their ship would easily be destroyed, if it could be caught, and if its layers of multi-dimensional armor could be pierced.  That, in fact, would not be easy, so the Modroni ships, while entirely defensive, are fabulously so.  The idea was put forth that perhaps they should tell the Modroni about Linda, and appeal to them to lend the team one of their ships.  Or, conversely, to steal one of the Modroni ships and fly it back to Earth on the hopes that the Modroni wouldn't blast them to oblivion on route for doing so.  

On the other hand, as they soon learned, there were on the northern reaches of the moon, the a battalion of Nazis hiding out as they had been since 1942.  They too, as the Modroni well knew, had a small fleet of fast ships.  Not nearly as fast as the Modroni's but certainly far faster than anything their Earthly brethren had ever managed to come up with.  Theirs were the proverbial UFOs.  Saucer shaped space ships that could dart around at fantastic speeds and pivot direction on a dime.  The idea was pitched that perhaps they should not mention anything to the Modroni, who might veto the entire operation, but instead sneak off and raid the Nazi base, steal one of their ships and make their way back to earth.  As it happened, the UFOs not only were well armored, but had an been built with warfare in mind, and so had an arsenal of weapons to boot.

Three possible plans on how to get to Earth.  Then once there, they needed to figure out what they would do about Brian V, and how exactly they would rescue Linda Brisbane, and the other members of the Black Wind V team that had been overwhelmed by Brain V's mental powers.

There seemed to be two options put forth.  One was to attack immediately and attempt to rescue the team by destroying whatever Advanced Mechs Brain V might throw at them, and then dash away with their friends.  Another plan involved a stealthy infiltration while Brain V takes his nightly rest, and hope to sneak off with their friends under the cover of mental shields.

These plans were all debated hotly for 15 minutes, when Ling announced that the Modroni were on their way to their chamber.  They would have to decide then and there.  And so they did.

Ling, the leader of the Modroni, explained in plain language what she saw happen on Earth some 20 minutes earlier.  She requested that the Modroni help her to rescue her sister.  She explained that the giant brain on earth could indeed be a threat to the Modroni over time, as it's powers were quite peerless, and could even rival that of the Modroni themselves.  Perhaps even surpass it.  

The Modroni listened impassively, and without any particular expression.  After a few moments they agreed to help.  Their reasons were simple enough.  First, their Leader had asked them to.  And second, she was correct in pointing out that Brain V could pose a potential threat to their operation and should be investigated.

And so they drew up a final plan in a few minutes.  The Modroni would take one of their two remaining ships and bring the heroes to the Nazi base where they would steal one of the UFOs.  They would then use a tractor beam to fly both ships at hyper speed to Earth, which would get them there before the Mechs and the AGV down on Earth could get to the Black Wind Facility.  Yes, that is 250,000 miles in a few minutes.  That's how fast the Modroni ships go, even with another ship in tow!   Once on Earth they would then split into two teams.  The Modroni would take their ship and infiltrate the Black Wind Facility to investigate and analyze Brain V, while our heroes would take the captured Nazi UFO to use against the Brain-Mechs, and rescue their friends in the AGV and "the Rhino".  It was decided that Ling would stay on the Moon in order to fulfill her obligation as Leader of the Modroni, and her friends would head to Earth with one of the Modroni to investigate Brain V.

There were still a couple of obstacles in the way, but overall it seemed like a reasonably good plan.  The first problem was that the Modroni could not possibly risk allowing anyone to leave the Moon with memories of their operations there, so every team member heading back to Earth would have to willingly subject themselves to a complete removal of all memories of the Modroni, down to the most minute detail.   Everyone agreed except Jacob who required some convincing.  He wanted to know why the Modroni were so intent on secrecy and what was so important about their mission.  So they showed him something that convinced him.  His mind was briefly transported to a scene on some planet towards the edge of the galaxy.  The heavens were filled with stars on one half of the sky, and frighteningly devoid of them on the other. Only a dreadful and eerie black void hung over that side of the universe.  It was dreadful to behold.  He found himself overlooking an ancient purple colored world devoid of life, covered by smoothed down iron mountains and methane seas.  A bright blue star blazed overhead.  Then from the blackest part of the sky a red flicker of light appeared. It was very tiny.  Almost imperceptible at first.  But where it touched the upper atmosphere it created a wave of effect that quickly became impossible not to notice.  Every molecule, no matter of what kind, that touched that red speck inverted in a way impossibly terrifying to behold, and transformed itself into the same bizarre substance as the red speck itself (which wasn't actually red at all, but cast a crimson glow around itself whenever it touched anything). These tiny particles would then shatter and scatter at the speed of light outward while everything that any of them touched would follow the same exact pattern.  Within a minute or so the entire planet had been consumed, shattered into microscopic red specks, and blasted out into space in a vast sphere travelling at light speed.  Jacob understood that anything any of those red specks touched would do the same.   And thus, the importance of the Modroni Mission was conveyed to his quivering mind.  He found himself with the others shaking and covered in sweat.  He agreed to the Memory Wipe along with the others.

The final obstacle to the plan was that their friends back on Earth happen to be in Thrall to Brain V, and would likely resist any attempt at being rescued.  This was a serious problem.  But there was no time to debate it.  They had to move and move fast.  They decided to address that on the way.  

And so, down to the dark unknown they were guided by Ling.  Far down a long wormlike tunnel under the surface of the moon they sped.  They came to a shaft that descended into the blackness.  At the bottom they came to a massive metal door that opened soundlessly at Ling's command.  Inside was a domed chamber about quarter mile in diameter.  Dim blue lights illuminated the rims of three massive disk shaped platforms hovering in the air at equal distances forming a massive aerial triangle.  There were two ships, each poised at the center of two of the platforms, while the remaining platform was empty.  They sped to one of the two ships and the Modroni opened the air locks and they entered.  The ships were so dark on the outside that the seemed to be composed of the blackness of space.  Nor, they understood from Ling, could anything detect these ships by any kind of radar or scan.  The Modrini ships were for all intents and purposes invisible to the universe.  They would blend perfectly into any environment, remaining completely invisible on every frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum. There invisibility was perfect.

At this point they were each given a Modroni Space Suit.  These were purplish hued translucent pods that when picked up in their hands began to grow up their arms, over their limbs and within a few moments covered their bodies completely.  Inside was maintained a comfortable temperature with a steady internally generated air supply.  The Modroni explained that the suits would protect them from the intense acceleration of the ship by creating an internal environment which would sustain them, and their bodily integrity during the journey.  These were no ordinary pressure suits.  They had been specifically designed for ultra-high acceleration space travel.  It would not, however, necessarily be entirely comfortable.  The suits, they were also informed, were in fact living creatures, and they were advised to be polite to them as they happen to be highly intelligent. It was likely that they would not accept rude or uncivilized behavior.  Ling told them that it might take about a month or so for the suits to be fully integrated with their personalities and become able to communicate with them telepathically.  During that time, should there be a personality conflict, however, the suits might wind up rejecting them.  So they should, she said, be as polite and civil as possible at all times. They all agreed, though Jacob found this idea a bit jarring.  Nevertheless, he felt that to get off the Moon and return to Earth was well worth whatever the cost might be.

And so they took off straight upwards through a shaft, which zig zagged its way to the surface, and upon exiting into the night sky through a hole in the bottom of a shadowed crater sped at unbelievable speed towards the north pole of the moon.  There ahead, within a moment, was Mare Frigoris, or "The Sea of Frost".  Within another moment, they arrived at Eishelm, which was the name that the Nazis had given their Fortress on the moon. Deep within a narrow ravine they flew. The Modroni ship cast a faint beam bluish light so that they could see.  There before them was a solid metal door of enormous size built into the canyon wall.  Had the Modroni not been studying the Nazis for decades it would have been entirely impossible to have detected that such a door existed, so dark are the shadows in the craters of the moon.  On the door was engraved a gigantic eagle holding the classic Nazi swastika in its talons.  There was, they saw, a narrow path along the floor of the canyon upon which the tracks of human boots could be seen.  They lead to the right side of the door, and there they saw a common keypad.  The kind you type a number sequence into.  Someone would have to go outside and type the numbers to open the door.  Fortunately, because the Modroni had spent decades carefully studying the Nazis, they knew all about them, their habits, their mental states, and of course, their security codes.

Bruin Hilda volunteered to go out, open the door, enter the base, and find a vessel to steal.  Since they knew the Nazi's so well, the Modroni were quite aware that this facility was scarcely being guarded since the three factions within the complex had been put so at odds (by the furtive manipulations of the Modroni) that normal operations had long since been disrupted.  Quite a few of the Nazis had died at each other's hands, and so personnel count had fallen quite low, and so only essential jobs could be performed.  As the Nazis believed there was absolutely no one on the moon except for themselves, the Modroni having carefully hidden their own existence entirely, they saw no particular need to guard the space fleet at the Haupteingang (Main Entrance).  After all, who could possibly attack the base from the outside?  They were far more concerned about attacks from within!

Bruin Hilda exited the ship through the airlock, and took a number of long loping steps towards the entrance during which she spent quite a bit of time off the ground.  She managed to get to the keypad and typed the code in.  Slowly but surely the gigantic door opened into a jet black hall.  She lit her Ray Gloves and saw that there were six rows of nine ships, all shaped like classic UFOs, with domed tops, and three small domes on the bottom side, all perched on tripod legs.  They were covered in dust about a quarter of an inch thick which suggested that they hadn't been used in quite some time.  She looked around carefully scanning the floor for footprints, and sure enough found a set.  She followed them to a ship on at the corner point of the rectangle farthest towards the interior of the hall.  This ship was not covered in dust, but in fact was quite clean, and looked like it had been used recently.  She reached out to touch the key pad that would open it.

At that moment red flashing lights began to whirl in several places around the hall, and she knew that her presence had been detected.  As a door opened on an interior wall flooding light into the vast dusty chamber, she danced her fingers over the keypad, gained access, and jumped inside as armored troops began flooding into the hall.  There were flashes of muzzle fire, and bullets began ricocheting off the hull of the ship with loud twangs.  The inside of the ship was an amazing collection of antiquated looking controls, glass vacuum tubes, curved brass bars, dials, knobs, levers and crank wheels. She grabbed the metal schematic plate that the Modroni pointed her to, and quickly acquainted herself with the ship's  layout and controls.  As a seasoned pilot herself, it wasn't too difficult for her to assess how the ship operated, though she had to translate the schema from German to do so.  But with Modroni's help she was able to do so with great efficiency, and within a few moments she had launched the vessel into the air.  Massive amounts of machine gun fire were being directed at her, ringing the ship with loud furious tangs, but to no avail.  She was perfectly safe inside the hull of that incredible war-machine.  She flew up and over the other ships, clipping one lightly, and glided silently out of the open entranceway, only bumping once against the door's massive frame inducing a bright shower of sparks.  She was free and out in the canyon.  Behind her German soldiers cursed vehemently as they fired upon the escaping ship, but she payed no heed.  She might have used the ship's weapons on them, but the weapons controls were an entirely separate matter and required another crew member to manage them. 

With the UFO safely outside the Modroni fastened their tractor beam to it, and off they flit with instant acceleration into the depths of space.  The jump to Hyper Speed was jolting to say the least, and every one of the crew were nauseated to the core.  But they were not splattered into pancakes, which was the important thing.  And so towards Earth they flit faster than any human had ever flit before.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

WoAF - Game Session 22

And so ... we find our heroes rolling North on Route 93 in their Armored Ground Vehicle (AGV), while Pita Piloted the "Rhino" Mech along side at an attitude of 15 to 20 feet.  They were on tight beam communication via their wrist Comms, but as soon as they passed through the Ferguson Gap Captain Sam ordered them to go to Radio Silence.  As they made their way up onto the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats Captain Samwise reviewed the situation, and briefed them on The Plan. 

"As you know, we have reason to believe that there are 18 scientists being held captive by the gigantic Super-Brain, known as "Brian", inside the Black Wind V Facility.  We have three objectives.  One rescue the hostages.  Two, capture as much information as possible from the facility's computer system.  Three, neutralize the Super-Brain, whether that means killing it or something else, it needs to be neutralized as a threat.  Because there are only three people in our group who can create Mind Shields, they should be split up into three teams."

It was generally understood by the team that the Super-Brain had super mental powers, but that it sleeps between 1am and 5am.  Therefore, this was to be a stealth mission, and the goal would be to get in, and get out before Brian would wake up in the morning.  They also knew that there was a 10 mile diameter Massive Mind Shield around the Facility.  The way Mind Shields work is that no mental powers or thoughts can penetrate through a shield, either from the inside or the outside.  It neutralizes all mental energies.  Lastly, they had Penelope who was familiar with the workings of the Facility, had security access to it, and its computer systems, which she knew quite well, and mentioned that she had voice  activated command-control of the Drones, which she herself had been instrumental in designing.  With all of this having been discussed previously, Sam skirted over these details without mentioning them again.

"Team A:  Since Pita, one of the Mentarians, and Major Sekston are in the Mech, they should cause diversions.  At random times they will do fly byes over the base and get security focused on them.  Their goal is to be a diversion, without getting caught.  At 30 minutes before the Brain is due to wake up from his nightly nap, I want you to deploy the Thermobaric Bomb and light the place up.  This means dropping the bomb down the shaft where it should fall approximately 200 feet and blow the entire facility to smithereens."

At this point Dr. Rogers raised an eyebrow.  After all, this seemed to contradict the original mission plan that they had discussed earlier in several key points, namely on the issue of stealth.  But, he kept his reservations to himself, and decided he might try mentioning something only if he thought there were a chance his suggestions might prove useful.  (Note:  Dr. Rogers is an NPC),  

The good Captain continued the briefing.

"Team B:  The main job is going to be composed of Linda with her Mentarian Powers and Mind Shield, with Fred, our friendly neighborhood Cybernaut.  They are going to hack the computer center and get as much information onto a data crystal as possible in the given timeframe, and then get out."

"Team C:  Dr. Rogers, Simon ("Guns"), and myself are going to rescue the hostages," he concluded.

"The one thing left to be decided is whether Teams B and C should enter the Facility through the Beam Tunnel which leads into the lowest level of the Facility, or if Team B will go through the tunnel while Team C heads overland to the side entrance and descend from there one level to the living quarters."

"Any questions?", asked Captain Samwise confidently.

"Nope," said Guns.

"Not really," said Fred.

"Sounds like a well oiled plan to me," said Pita.

Dr. Rogers stared at the team.  Where were the details of the plan?  What decision was made in regards to Team B and C?  Nothing was forthcoming.  It appeared they were simply going to wing it.  

It was midnight.  Linda was scanning the environment via visual and audio looking for any indication that their approach had been detected.  Sam went ahead and generated random time table for the Mech attacks and beamed them over to Pita who logged them into the Rhino's computer system.  Guns was up in the turret cleaning his Springfield rifle, whom he affectionately named Ilene.  Fred hunkered down and began prepping his trusty Computer Spike for the mission.  Everything was Go. 

Fred went over their inventory in detail:

"Ok, we've got light armor, heavy armor, flame thrower, knock out gas grenades, beam rifle, fire axe, nerve gas bombs, thermobaric grenades, gas masks, computer hacking tools.  Frag Grenades, Adaptive Combat Rifles, 9mm Acid Slugs, a Construction Drone, Cybernetic Goggles, Electronics Tool Kits, 2600 Lumen Flashlights, two Gernies, knockout gas tank, Wake-Up Injections (10 doses), telescopic pole, and of course, the fuzzy dice."

Nothing was said about how they actually planned to use any of these items.  They rolled up slowly as the Salt Flats came into view in the distance.  A long flat stretch of white sand lay before them as far as the eye could see eastward.  The sands seemed to shimmer silver by the light of the moon.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rogers was looking pensive, sitting in his wheelchair, fidgeting with his strap-in buckles.

"What's going on?" asked Sam.

"Yeah, nice to have to legs.  It's a good deal," he said, trying to smile. "But to be honest, given my condition I'm not sure how useful I will be helping you egress the scientists from the facility," he said, trying to get a feel to how receptive Captain Samwise might be to his suggestions.

"Well, we need you to help us try to remove the Compulsions from the scientists brains."


Dr. Rogers concern was that Team C was the one that required most physical activity of the three, and he'd be not only unlikely to be able to help in any physical situation requiring movement, but he might even wind up being a liability.  He was of a mind that he and Linda might be better of swapping places, as he could easily protect Fred, and that piece of the mission required little or no physical exertion, and Linda would be better able to assist the scientists moving out of the complex.  The removal of compulsions could most likely wait until they were at a safe distance, and it was an arduous job that took considerable time and effort at any rate.  This idea wasn't expressed overtly, however, as he didn't wish to buck Captain Sam's authority and make matters worse by raising an overt objection.  He just looked pensive, but got himself geared up for whatever may come.  It seemed in any case that the Captain had already squarely made up his mind on this particular point, and so Dr. Rogers thought better of making any further suggestions.

As they drove north on 93, just before they entered Ferguson's Pass, Fred took Captain Samwise aside.

"Hey, boss, what are we going to do about the girl?", he said quietly, making a nod over to Penelope who was quietly sitting on the couch at the rear of the AGV.  She wasn't looking so happy.  Since she found out her husband Allen had been killed, she seemed to have lost the will to live.  Dr. Rogers had mentioned this to Captain Sam earlier, but nothing had been done to help her through her grief and trauma, and she was languishing.

"Yeah, she seems to be losing it," admitted Sam.

"Yeah, she sure is," replied Fred.  "She had nothing but glowing praise for brain-baby, if you recall.  Can we trust her?"

"I don't believe she's going to betray us, intentionally, but maybe we have to give her a sedative to put her to sleep for a while," replied the good Captain.

"I wouldn't contend with you on that at all," replied Fred, glancing at the girl suspiciously.

"Yeah, I don't think she is going to be able to join us on the Mission, so we might want to let her sleep through it," reflected Sam.

"And restrain her," added Fred.

"Penelope has all of the knowledge of the facility.  None of you know anything about the Facility," mentioned Dr. Rogers telepathically to Sam. 

"Yes, she has knowledge, that's true.  And she's already shared her knowledge of the layout of the facility," thought Samwise in reply.  "I would love to bring her with us, if you think it's safe for her to come along, and if you can help her along the way."

Dr. Rogers answered that he thought it would be a good idea to bring her and repeated all of the benefits she brought to the table.  

"Of course, this is your mission, not mine," he continued.  "I'm just offering an observation for your consideration."

Sam went over to Penelope and got down on one knee so he could look at her eye to eye.

"How you doing?"

"I'm ok," she said.

"We're getting ready to head into Black Wind V.  We need to get the scientists out, and I need to know if you can help."

"Yes, I can help," she answered.  She understood quite well how much their mission's success would depend on her knowledge and abilities within the complex.  She was willing to help because her loss of her husband and escape from the Facility had opened her eyes to the fact that the scientists there were actually Brian's prisoners, induced into a zombie-like state that left them only capable of working on their projects, not living their lives.  She wanted to follow her husband's lead and become free again.  And she wanted the same for her fellow scientists.  

"Ok, I'm putting all my trust in you, Penelope.  This is not just for you, this is to help the goal of your husband who tried to escape earlier."

She smiled faintly and nodded in ascent.

Sam went to Linda and told her to give Penelope a sleeping pill with a drink.

Linda asked if that was an Order.  He said it was.  Sam could tell that Linda was not happy with this idea.  In fact she really didn't want to slip the girl a micky on moral grounds.  However, Sam reiterated that it was an Order.  So Linda went over and gave Penelope a drink which she surreptitiously laced with a knock-out drug she obtained from Fred, who was more than happy to provide it.  Penelope quickly fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

"Ok, let's chain her to something," said Fred.

Everyone looked at him incredulously.  

"No, I'm serious.  We need to restrain her.  What if the Super-Brain controls her like a puppet while she's sleeping.  No chances here. You just went through the trouble of covertly drugging her.  Now take the precaution of chaining her to the goddamn couch."

"So you got those fuzzy handcuffs in all that inventory, then, eh?" asked Guns, with a wry grin.  It was hard to laugh at that under the circumstances, but they tried.

And at that point Captain drew the line and said that they would not be restraining the sleeping girl.  Fred thought this was the absolute height of stupidity, but none of the others agreed.  She was asleep and would be out for a long time.  No need to restrain her, they thought.  And besides, Sam added, if for whatever reason, none of them came back alive from the mission, it wouldn't do to have her chained to the inside of the AGV where she would subsequently starve to death.  Everyone agreed that made sense.  Except Fred.  He was adamant that they chain her up really good and if she didn't make it, that's just too damn bad for her.

Dr. Roger's pointed out that as soon as the three Teams move beyond 60 feet of Penelope she will be outside of their Mind Shields for the first time since her escape.  And that is how Brian might gain hold of her.  Whereas had they brought her along, she would have been fully protected from the Super-Brain under one of the three Mind Shields.  

"Well," retorted Fred, "if she's handcuffed and she's restrained, I mean tied down, then the worst thing that can happen is she bites her tongue off and she bleeds to death.  Oh well."

"Maybe maybe not," said Dr. Rogers in reply. "That might not be the worst thing that could happen."

"Enlighten us, oh Swami," answered Fred sarcastically.

"Well, I should think the first thing that the Super-Brain would do is read her mind, and find out exactly what your plans are."

There was a long pause.  

"That's... true... I suppose," said Fred finally. 

They knew that the massive Mind Shield that Brian was maintaining around the the Black Wind V Facility was 10 miles in diameter.  They were 30 miles south at the moment.  What they couldn't know for sure is whether or not that massive shield might ever come down, should Brain V wish it.  In fact, they really knew next to nothing about the Great Brain's capabilities.  This lack of specific knowledge was quite germane to the topic, but none of them seemed to think it worth consideration.  Dr. Rogers left off speaking again.

"So ok.  We should tie her up and dump her.  We can pick her up on the way back,"  offered Fred.  Dr. Rogers noted to himself that this certainly didn't address the issue but to his surprise none of the others seemed to notice that.  He turned his wheel chair away and stared out the AGV window toward the north with furrowed eyebrows.

"I'm going to take the risk," said Sam, "and not restrain her.  We'll bring her into the Energy Transmission Station.  But we're not going to restrain her like that."

Dr. Rogers
It seemed to Dr. Rogers that the Federation Command Team were rushing in without insufficient forethought, and little actual planning.  When they did have a rational idea, they seemed to immediately forget it again as if it had never even been stated.  For example, the fact that Penelope could have controlled the drones and told them how to maneuver around the facility, and get the access to the places they might need to go was all completely forgotten by Fred, and then subsequently by everyone else.  It was almost as if the point hadn't even been raised. 

He would have suspected that perhaps the Great Brain had infiltrated their minds and was manipulating their thoughts, but he was quite sure this was not possible so long as the three Mentarians retained their Mind Shields, which they had.  No mental vibrations could pass through a Mind Shield. That was simply impossible. No, this had to be simply a case of humans not thinking.  It wasn't that uncommon, and in fact, the world had been utterly devastated as a byproduct of exactly this tendency. He grew more despondent.

Sam took the time to remind the good Doctor that he still had Allen Monroe's dead hand in a pickle jar that they could presumably use to gain entrance to the Facility by using his hand holding the Key Pass badge again... but Rogers speculated that the chance of that still working were actually quite low.  After all, having lost contact with the now dead Monroe, the Super-Brain would most certainly have terminated Monroe's Key Pass' activation codes.  It wouldn't have taken even a mediocre brain to figure that out.  Dr. Rogers sighed and made a hand-wavy gesture to indicate he had heard enough.

He began wishing he had simply mind wiped the Federation Command Team as soon as they arrived in Panguitch, and sent them back to Tucson before they could do serious damage to the world's future.  None of them seemed to understand the actual gravity of the situation, nor the perils involved, not just to themselves, but to all of humanity, should this encounter go poorly.  

Rogers might have Mind Wiped them then and there, given how things appeared to be going, but he decided against it.  Sometimes, after all, fate and destiny are cards that simply must be played out.  He knew that well.  His own life had been proof enough of it.  So he let it ride, and waited anxiously to see what would happen.

"Your Captainship, sir," piped up Guns from the turret, "seems to me like aren't you kind of betting the whole farm on the idea that the big brain ain't gonna get up in the middle of the night for a glass of warm milk, ain't'cha?"

That, Rogers thought, the most salient point made thus far by anyone on the team.  They were assuming that just because Brian has a habit of sleeping from 1am to 5am every day that he is somehow compelled to do so.  What if he was waiting for their return, in the knowledge that they had Penelope with them, and that she might provide incentive enough to cause them to do so?  This is a Super-Brain after all.  It would be easily able to anticipate thousands of possible outcomes, likely and unlikely, assign them probabilities and derive the most likely course of action the team might take.  They were also assuming, he noted, that the Brain would under no circumstances lower his Mind Shield.  This might be a fatal assumption.

High up in the cloudless sky the moon shone brightly over the desert.

"Everyone is safer," Fred was stating emphatically, "if we just dump her on the side of the road."

Sam wouldn't hear of it.  It was one thing to have slipped her a micky, but entirely another to simply throw her to the side of the road like so much raw meat for the tree monsters to devour.  He was willing to put her inside the Energy Transmission Station and let her sleep off the drugs there, but nothing else would befall her if he could help it.

At this point Linda, who had been diligently scanning the Vizi-Screen, noticed a fast flashing strobe-light suddenly became visible above the Black Wind V Facility across the desert flats.  She zoomed in with a spectral scan, and discerned that it was a spherical object on top of a narrow metallic pole above the tallest of the three buildings there.  She alerted the Captain, and they all took a look.

They thought it might have to do with the Weather Control system that they supposed was operating at the facility.  They didn't see any change in the weather,  however, though they did notice that the aurora-glow hovering over the north face of Ferguson Mountain was considerably brighter than the last time they saw it.  

"Well, it could just be an indication that the Brain is not planning on going to sleep," said Fred.  And that, thought Rogers, was the first sensible point he had made thus far.  All too soon to be forgotten... which it was, almost immediately.

"True," said Sam.  They continued rumbling northward in 93.

"Sir," said Linda, "I'm picking up the tree walkers about 15 miles north.  There are nine of them.  They appear to be moving down 93 in our direction."

Sam had her zoom in on the location where they had left Allen's body... the one that had been transformed into a skeleton on a tree-cross.  It was still there.  It might have struck them as strange that the monster trees would turn a skeleton into a cross similar to the one's they'd seen in the circles down south, but no such thought passed through any of their minds.  Perhaps for the best, actually.  Such a realization might have only complicated their already complicated-enough lives.  They rolled on.

Sam decided to head to the Energy Transmission Station.  They were still about 15 miles south of it as they passed through Ferguson Gap between Mount Ferguson and White Horse Mountain.  

The good Captain realized that the thirty miles they still had to go meant that they would not get to the facility at 1pm, but instead would get there closer to 1:15, or 1:30 depending on how long they took to deal with the Energy Station.  And they didn't know how long it would take to travel through the Beam Tunnel to get to the Facility.  If they had to walk it would take about 6 hours.  That would put them there at somewhere between 6 and 7am.  

Dr. Rogers twiddled his thumbs.  He wondered why they didn't simply stop before they actually entered the desert and spend a few days reconnoitering the area, observing any activity, and perhaps waiting the Super-Brain out.  If Brian was planning to stay awake all night to wait for them, it might do so a few nights in a row, maybe even a week, but eventually, it would get too tired to say awake... and that would have been a far more ideal time to strike.  They could have worked out the details of their plan, and made observations as to activities in the desert, the functioning of the operations at the Facility and Power Stations, and noted any peculiarities or potential surprises.  After all, it didn't seem like there was any pressing reason to blunder forward in a rush whatsoever.  The scientists had all been there for decades.  Another few days or so wouldn't likely make a single wit of difference.  But these musings weren't germane.  They were going to leap forward into the darkness just the same.  And who knows?  Sometimes that works, he reminded himself.

They drove towards the Energy Transmission Station, while up ahead on route 93 the tree walkers had gathered themselves into a formidable looking formation.  They were making their way to the intersection of the road that lead to the Station.  Captain Samwise considered their options.  They could avoid the tree walkers by off-roading it, but around that area the landscape was rough with lots of rivulets, gullies and small canyons.  It would probably be a slow haul and cause them to miss their very tight time window.  The fastest way would be to take the road.  Even at the risk of encountering the tree monsters.

Sam floored the gas, and roared the AGV north.  They made the intersection just before the tree walkers got to it, and with a fast dusty skid turned onto the eastward dirt road that lead to the Station.  Sam managed to miss the few of them that were in the lead of the pack by mere inches.  A few of their branches grazed the side of the AGV as it roared by.  As they passed, they shuttered at the sight of Allen's skeleton fixed to the tree-cross. But there was nothing to be done about the bones of Allen Monroe.  They and roared past and eastward to the Energy Transmission Station.  It was perhaps a mercy to Penelope that she was not awake to see that after all.

And so the calamities began to mount up.  Dr. Rogers fully expected to die soon.  Perhaps it was the sight of Allen's skeleton on the tree-cross that did it to him.  He wiped the copious amount of sweat from his forehead with a tissue. 

After a few miles the AGV came to a roaring halt just outside the Energy Transmission Station.  Captain Samwise checked his watch: 1:03 am.  He looked over the area.  The gleaming power station was set on a ridge surrounded by sand.  On the far side of the station was a cliff the descended down into a series of small compact marshes that surrounded the outcropping.  The marshes had been there forever, and were a stark change from the flat white sands.  Teaming in those marshes were all manner of living creatures.  Mostly insects, and lizards, along with some rather bizarre combinations of the two.  But no one in the AGV knew anything about that.  They were focused on the mission.  And the mission was to get inside the Energy Staion.

When they rolled up a cloud of mosquitoes ascended the heights and surrounded the AGV.  It was a massive swarm, and the little buggers looked hungry.  They covered the windshield.  Samwise flipped a switch on the control panel and the Anti-Insect Acoustic Shield went up.  "Tzzzzzt.  tzzzzzt.  tzzzzzt." sounds could be heard over the audio.  The team all suited up in their armor and prepared to enter the station.  

Meanwhile, Sam carried the sleeping Penelope with the intent of deposit her inside for safe keeping while they completed The Mission.  They used Allen Monroe's dead hand to open the door with his Pass Key.  That worked.  Sam was in the lead with Penelope, while Guns, and Linda followed behind.  Further back Fred approached as cautiously as possible, while Dr. Rogers stayed in the AGV and watched the action on the Vizi-Screen with an expression of fatalistic ennui as he watched Samwise carrying the limp form of Penelope forward into danger.  He was resolved to let things play out as they would.  

As the white metallic door slid open they saw the main room where the control panels were.  It was dark inside, being only lit by the flickering lights of the computer systems. Five dinner plate sized drones, smooth and sleek with their white metallic hulls were hovering in a circle in the center of the room.  They were perfectly silent, and no means of propulsion was visible.

Sam pulled away instantly and pivoted himself against the wall next do the door, still outside.  Gun's and Linda began a fire fight.  It didn't go well. As soon as Sam was out of the way Guns took a shot at the closest drone with his rifle.  The bullet hit, but merely ricocheted off the metallic surface, not leaving so much as a scratch.  Linda fired a her Lewiston Beam Pistol.  The bolt of blazing plasma burned a tiny black hole into the shell of one.  It began to spin around in the air, slowly wobbling from side to side.  Fred was eyeing the door panel, and prepared to hack into it.  With that he could potentially gain control of the computer systems inside, and perhaps even the drones.  

The Captain had believed that the drones levitated by the power of the Super-Brain's Telekinetic capacity, but the fact that they were beyond its massive Mind Shield suggested that this could not be so after all.  He was disappointed.  He had hoped that they'd be able to disable the drones with their own Mind Shields.  But that was not the case after all.  Penelope could have told them that, but she was sleeping in Sam's arms.

Sam thought about giving her a jab of the Wake-Up Serum, but decided against it.  For one thing, all hell was breaking loose from within the station as the drones began shooting plasma bolts through the doorway.  Guns was wearing his Armored Space Suit, and had flipped on his Plasma Shield for good measure.  A blazing blue-green bolt glanced off his Plasma Shield, hitting the door frame with a shower of orange sparks.  Linda on the other hand relied on her quick reflexes.  Fortunately, the Plasma Bolt missed her.  Two of the drones hovered to the center of the room and started shooting beams of light at the control panels while the others maintained their positions facing the door.

The door began to slide closed.  Thinking fast, Guns flung his machine gun into the doorway to try to jam the door open so they could take pot shots inside.  The door slid shut with such force that the machine stock snapped off and went flying thirty feet out onto the sands.  It did manage to maintain a five inch gap at the door, however.  Sam motioned for Fred to come to the door and hack into the system using the door panel.  

Once connected to the door panel, Fred flipped on his Neural-Net and entered the Hyper-Mind.  It is an ultra-fast universe of magno-bytes and electrons in which a million things can happen in the space of a millisecond. The odds were not high, however.  This was a highly sophisticated system and largely unknown to the Cybernaut.  These were systems designed by the Super-Brain.  One would expect that they'd be cleverly trapped, or misleading, or ultra-secure and unhackable.  He had only one brief experience with these systems, and only a vague understanding of how they operated.  But with the speed of the Neural-Net he scanned his options. There were a variety of devices and systems in range of his attack.  He went to work.  

Sam gently laid Penelope by the side of the building, and took out his Lewiston.  

"The Lewiston's do damage to them, sir," said Linda, "but not as much as I hoped."

They all got ready to level volleys of plasma fire into the station as soon as Fred gained control of the door.  But despite the speed of the Neural-Net, Fred's attack was filled with specialty moves, sudden twists, and unknown mazes that had to be traversed.  In fact it took him a few seconds to operate.

Meanwhile, out on the desert, Pita was flying Rhino towards the Black Wind V Facility, getting ready to launch his first barrage of weapons fire at the appointed time that Captain Samwise had set.  However, something caught his attention on the Vizi-Screen.  The lumbering tree monsters were on the road heading towards the Energy Station.  Since they were on radio silence he too his own initiative and as he flew over the monstrous trees, weighing in at 20 to 70 tons each, he shouted to Major Sekston, "Let'em have it with the flame thrower, Major!"

FOOOOM!  In one pass they lit half the trees on fire.  With a quick aerial pivot Pita positioned them for another pass, this time coming in low. The trees suddenly flung their branches and a cloud of thumb sized splinters hurtled towards the Mech.  But Rhino's armor was far too thick for that, and they shattered into slivers as they hit the hull.  A thousand tiny "Pings" echoed inside.  Another blast with the flame thrower and every tree was on fire.

"Ok!" shouted the Major up the ladder.

With that Pita landed the burly Mech, put its giant metal fists on its hips, and gave out a hearty laugh at the burning trees over the loud speakers.  He then launched into the air and flew back towards Way Point #1 on his list.  As they flew he called down to the Major.

"What do you think about that strobe light at the facility?"

"I don't know, but my guess is its a kind of Photonic Radar.  If it is, then it's likely tracking everything within light range, covering the entire desert."

"Well, we've already started our first distraction!" said Pita.  He planned to get within the one mile targeting range of Rhino's missile battery so he could take out the strobe light.  

"I don't recall you mentioning anything about a Photonic Radar," said the Major up the ladder as she recalibrated her weapons controls.

"Yeah, well, they weren't there until," he replied.

"You realize that suggests they are prepared for us, don't you?"

"Yes, that's a good point, but we're prepared for them, too, ya know?" answered Pita with a laugh.

At that moment the Alert Board began flashing red on Rhino's main sensor panel.

"I'm picking up incoming bogies from the north.  Four," said the Major.

Pita saw the blips about 15 miles north, just inside the perimeter of the Wendover Airport. Zooming in with his Vizi-Screen, he saw the airport's tarmac, strewn with the ruins of fighter jets. Out from black patches in the ground emerged four sleek, globular looking machines that resembled Mechs, though they were much smoother, and made of polished white metal. They looked like gigantic versions of the drones they had seen earlier. The four machines were flying in formation and were arcing through the dark night sky towards them. As he watched as they quickly picked up speed. They were coming in fast. Very fast.

Pita broke radio silence. "Captain, we're in ... frikkin trouble here... We've got some kind of Ultra-Mechs coming at us.  We're not going to be able to handle all of them.  We're still about 15 miles out."

"What details do you have on the mechs?"

They quickly exchanged the details of their current situations and agreed a retreat was in order.  Pita floored the thrusters, making a short circular arc in the air, and burned a long scorch mark on the salt flat as he high tailed it back to the Energy Station.  It would take him a minute or so to get back there.  Hearing all of this on the Comm, Guns took a dash for the AGV, leapt up into the turret and flipped on the targeting system.

Meanwhile, Fred was hacking his little heart out.  He connected with the control panel that the drones were currently operating with their light beams.  That took approximately 27 seconds, an infinity of time in Hyper-Mind.  He was hoping the control panel would allow him to shut the drones down, but he found that it only managed the Energy Station.  It ran things related to the Beam Tunnel operations: cooling systems, doors, refrigeration units, and so forth.  But the drones were independent units.  The control panel, he found, did not control the drones, but rather the drones controlled the control panel.  

Fred sent in commands to open the outer door on Sam's command.  He and Linda were prepared to spin into action and fire their Lewiston's into the room.  But the Drones were ready for them.  Four scorching blue-white plasma beams shot through the doorway as Sam and Linda spun into view with their guns ready to fire.  One beam hit Sam in the shoulder, burning a narrow hole through his armor and agonizingly through his arm.  Another beam glanced his helmet creating a massive spray of sparks.  At the same time Linda managed to dodge one beam and deflect the other with her Plasma Shield.  The two heroes spun back out of the doorway to get out of the line of fire.  They decided a frontal assault was not going to work, so Sam leaned over and grabbed Penelope in his good arm and picked her up.  Linda was prepared to run and cover their rear with her Plasma Shield.   

Pita still was about 30 seconds away.  "We've got incoming!" he shouted over the comm.   

Guns buckled himself in, flipped the next switch on the sighting display and prepared for battle.  "Sir, let's move the AGV out a click and take potshots through the door of the Energy Station."

At this point Sam was tempted to have Pita launch the Thermobaric Bomb from the Mech to take out the Energy Station completely.  He thought it would at least cripple the Black Wind facility, which was better than nothing. He was pretty sure that there was no way their slow hunky Mech was going to be able to take on the four Ultra-Mechs speeding fast towards them.  

As an alternative he also considered using their beam weapons to gun down the drones inside the Energy Station and dodging inside.  Once inside Fred could hack through to get them into the Beam Tunnel.  But it was a good 15 miles from the Energy Station to the Black Wind Facility.  

They could possibly get into the service tunnel that follows along side the Beam Tunnel and hack the Tram that Penelope had described to them during the debriefing back in Panguitch, but they didn't know the exact layout and had only gotten a map of the main Facility, not the Energy Station.    

They began to debate over the Comms about what to do.  Fred wanted to try to figure out how they could get the Thermobaric Bomb to the Black Wind Facility via the Tram, but there was a problem.  He couldn't figure out how to get back out alive.  After all, the Mechs could easily destroy the AGV while they were in transit to the Facility, which would effectively cut off any hope of escape.  (Not to mention that the Thermobaric Bomb would most likely destroy a fairly large portion of the tunnel once it detonated, and that would likely put an end to them then and there.)  They were not interested in a suicide mission.  So that plan was abandoned.  They began debating another plan.

Guns, realizing the team had begun to lose focus on the fact that they had about 10 more seconds before the Ultra-Mechs arrived decided to take action.  He jumped down from the turret and ran to the pilot's seat and revved the engines to life.  He began pulling away from the Power Station at a slow enough speed to let the team jump in through the still open hatch.  Fred, seeing this, yanked the cable of his Spike out of the door panel and ran for the AGV, leaping inside.  Sam, lumbering behind them under the weight of the sleeping Penelope, came up from the rear.  Guns slowed down a bit, and Sam managed to haul Penelope into the AGV as well.  Several plasma beams shot out through the Energy Station doorway, but Linda's Plasma Shield was just good enough to deflect the shots.

Meanwhile Pita cut an arc through the air to face the door of the Energy Station while Major Sekston armed a battery of heavy missiles.

"Use the Thermobaric Bomb!" shouted Sam.  But Major Sekston, who knew something about combat tactics and strategy saw that as a  complete waste of their one and only remaining Thermobric Bomb, the most powerful weapon in their entire arsenal, and so she negated that command.  After all, Rhino was her Mech, on loan, and she was most certainly not a subordinate to good Captain Samwise.  She armed the battery of heavy missiles.  Pita was in agreement with this decision.  After all, the Thermobaric Bomb was their only hope to take out the Black Wind Facility.  Even Fred agreed that normal missiles would take out the Power Station on their own.  But Sam continued to try to insist on the use of the Big Bomb.  

"Captain, it is my recommendation," said Pita, "that we do not use the Thermobaric Bomb, our most powerful weapon, on a small facility far from our main objective.  The Heavy Missiles will take out the Energy Station without a problem.  I guarantee it."  Finally Samwise relented and conceded the point.

The AGV roared down the road at top speed, raising a cloud of dust.  The drones inside the Energy Station were taking shots at the rear of the AGV, but it's anti-Plasma shield deflected them with relative ease, just receiving scorch marks along the hull.  Meanwhile the drones began using their light beams to remove the machine gun from the door so they could seal it shut.  As soon as Pita saw them move the machine gun he shouted into the Comm, "Going Hot!  Major, fire Missiles!"  

Five missiles launched, but due to the timing, erratic flight path and rushed reaction four missiles hit around the door and exploded harmlessly against the white metallic exterior... but one made it through and vanished inside.  There was a momentary pause, and then an enormous explosion.  The AGV shaken and inside everyone got thrown around.  The Mech, hit by the shock wave, got hurled to the ground, but Pita's piloting skill was such that he managed to land sideways on his treads without more than minor damage.  

The Energy Station was a blazing ruin, with enormous flames and a huge billow of black smoke lofting skyward.  If the Super-Brain had been sleeping, this at least would have woken it up.  Beyond the smoke they could see the four Ultra-Mechs speeding towards them in a long tight arc.  They would be on them in a few seconds.  Pita punched in a computation to pivot and fire the second battery of heavy missiles at the incoming threat.  And at that moment things went south.

Dr. Rogers, who had been gritting his teeth painfully for some time now, suddenly looked up with alarm and stared in the direction of the Black Wind Facility.  Something changed 30 miles away that made his blood suddenly turn cold with fear.

"The Mind Shield is down," he said.

"You mean the giant Mind Shield?", asked Pita nervously glancing in that direction. 

"Yes," said Rogers, "that one."

At that moment he stood up in his wheel chair, his eye's bulging, and rolling back in his head.  Pita felt something hurling towards him through the mental ethers, and tried to throw a Mental Evasion, but it was putting up a little cocktail umbrella against a meteor strike.  A mental force in the shape of a massive spear of enormous power blasted his Mind Shield to tiny smithereens, and in the next instant his mind went absolutely black.  The Mech lurched to halt on the battle field.

Guns, watching Linda and Dr. Rogers both rear up, grab their heads in their hands and then drop like sacks of rice to the ground decided it was time for them to make their get-away.  He gunned the AGV full throttle and with a massive roar of the engines the vehicle hurtled down the road.  Fred scrambled up into the gun turret.  Captain Samwise ran to Linda to see if he could help her, but she and the doctor were both completely catatonic, eyes wide open, unmoving.  He couldn't do anything to snap them out of it.  

Fred glanced at the Visi-Screen to catch site of the Ultra-Mechs coming in hot on a low arc.  They had about 3 seconds before the missile barrages were likely to begin.

"Come in Major Sekston!" shouted Fred into the Comm.

"What's going on!?" returned the battle hardened Major from the Rhino.  "Pita has passed out.  I'm making my way up to the pilot's seat!"  

"Yeah, all of our Mentarians got blasted here," yelled Fred.  "We need to get the hell out of here.  We're heading to Ferguson Pass!  Follow us!"  The Major launched the Mech into the air and followed behind the AGV as it rumbled full speed south on 93.  But it was too late.

Hovering over the the road ahead of them a shimmering translucent image suddenly appeared.  Around it was a dark green haze within which there floated a 50' tall brain with two eye sockets burning with a fierce yellow light from the shadows of the frontal lobes.  It was a sight of sheer madness and horror.  Fred fired the Plasma Cannon directly into it, but the beams passed through it without making any contact whatsoever.  Fred spit on the windshield out of sheer frustration.  The Super-Brain fired two red beams of Mental Power through the wall of the AGV, piercing directly through Dr. Rogers body.  He vanished without a trace.



And then they heard the voice.  They all heard it.  It resounded with incredibly deep vibrations into their minds at an inconceivable volume, making their skin crawl.  

"You Are Mine!"

Fred, Guns and the Major succumbed instantly.  The power of the Super-Brain was so vast, so intense, so wise, so infinite, that they knew without the slightest equivocation that it *knew* everything about them in a single flash of a glance.  Their minds, their history, their personalities, their best dreams and darkest fears... it knew them completely and wholly.  Not the slightest thought or memory could possibly be hidden from this all consuming presence.  It knew their darkest  most intimate secrets.  And what they sensed was that this entity shared that darkness with them.  It was a thing of such intense malignancy, such horrific evil that they shuddered uncontrollably to the core of their beings.  It was the worst thing they'd ever seen.  They also felt, at the same time, that it was the most awe inspiring thing they could possibly imagine.  And in this they felt that this was the one entity, finally, after an entire lifetime of rudderless wandering, that truly commanded their respect and was worthy of their complete and utter devotion.

"Finally," thought Guns out loud, "true leadership!"

Gun's slammed on the breaks, turned the AGV around and said with enthusiasm, "We're heading home!  Whoohoo!"

Sam, however, was able,  somehow, with the last shred of his own will power intact for but a moment, resist the massive siren call.  And in that all too brief moment he saw another vision hovering off to the side of the road.   As the image of the towering great and mighty brain shimmered out of existence, he saw another image appear on the road in its place.  No one else saw it except Sam.  Shining there in the glow of invisible moon rays was the shimmering visage of Linda, her clear silvery-blue eyes shining outward forming a softly glowing halo around her.  Her face held the look of deep concern.  Her lips were moving.  The drone and buzz of Brian's voice still reverberated throughout his being. 

And so, the sun set below the edge of the horizon as hour heroes were driven by a newly loyal and devoted Simon "Guns" Gunnison to the Black Wind Facility where they were taken control of by Brain V.  

And that is how things turned out for our heroes of the Black Wind V Mission from Tucson, Arizona.