The Duchess’ Gala Job

We took on The Job by J. Swaine this week, a Descended from the Queen game hosted on StorySynth. We are a crew planning and executing a heist, the target of the heist being the Queen in this version. Our crew is Lucky Seven, Shorty, Claire, and Thierry, but our leader is the King of Diamonds, who brought us all together and is renowned for his use of playing cards to send messages: to us, to the police, to his victims. He, and so we, specialize in high art theft. Our target for this job is an emerald necklace that supposedly brings “The Duchess’ Curse” upon those who possess it. Although superstitious Lucky Seven fears the curse, the main problem we face will be switching the necklace with a copy in the middle of a public gala at the museum where it will be on display.

A recent job of ours, to steal paintings from a museum in Paris, went horribly wrong when Jean-Claude decided to pilfer some extra canvases, which delayed our departure and forced us into a mad dash across the rooftops to escape. Jean-Claude’s carelessness got him kicked off the team, but not before Claire was injured badly enough that she won’t be accompanying into the gala on this job. Instead she goes on a scouting mission still limping and is mesmerized by the beauty of the jewel. She reaches out to touch it, but the matrons stopped her. If they hadn’t, she might have made a grab for it right there and made our job even harder.

Thierry is on this job to get the money to send his daughter to school, hoping that it will make amends for all those years he missed while away in prison. Lucky Seven doesn’t expect to use her contortionist skills on this job, but also doesn’t realize that she definitely will need to use her rudimentary French skills. Shorty has been, we are surprised to learn, preparing for this job for years, even apprenticing on diamond row in New York for a year to learn the gemology trade. He may know more about the Duchess than anyone, and his copy is exquisite, the finest work Thierry has ever seen. Claire hopes the job is done well and done quick, so she can retire to Nice to rest her foot and recover in splendor.

Once the job begins, Seven draws the attention of a gala patron who suspects her and keeps showing up and asking pointed questions. Shorty gets distracted talking to a cute waiter until Thierry reminds him to keep his mind on the job; we can’t have another Jean-Claude situation. Outside the museum, Claire spots a group of police moving in force toward the museum entrance and warns the crew. She calls in a bomb scare at an address down the street to pull the cops away from the museum. Over the radios, Shorty casually mentions he once touched the Duchess necklace while working at the museum, and Seven panics. Surely, we’re doomed now that the curse is upon us. Why, Claire wonders, couldn’t we have chosen anything else in the museum, something that doesn’t attract so many eyes and carry such a price. After having swapped the necklaces, we realize the police have created a cordon because of the bomb scare and are searching everyone’s bags. Seven hides the necklace in the suspicious patron’s hair to smuggle it through the checkpoint, and thinks our avoiding the curse is a sign that we’re destined to stick together.

Once we’re safe, Thierry tells us that the King of Diamonds has special plans for the necklace, plans that preclude us from delivering the necklace to the buyer as planned. Rather than lose out on the payday, we meet with the buyer on our own and collect. Thierry can pay for his daughter’s education (but will it win her heart), and Claire vacations in Nice as planned alongside Seven and Shorty. How long until the King of Diamonds catches up with us?

Nor Gloom of Night

Our game this week is Nor Gloom of Night by Emily Cambias, a postal hack of the 24XXsystem from Jason Tocci. In Nor Gloom of Night, we play the crew of a cargo ship making interplanetary deliveries for the postal service of the crumbling Earth empire. Our crew consists of Kwyn, the pacifist pilot; Hengin, the mail guard; Mario, the ship’s mechanic; Tobias Flint, a researcher and medic; Cara, a letter whisperer who hears voices from the packages; and our postmaster, Otar.

Our story begins with the ship backed up to the central Postal Depot orbiting Earth. Hengin is bringing a sled of packages aboard, so Otar asks Cara to listen to them. She says that she gets a bad feeling about one package in particular, an unmarked case that we’re supposed to delivery to coordinates in empty space near Mercury. Otar says it’ll be okay and directs us to the bridge for departure. As Kwyn fires up the engines, the computer offers to take us out on autopilot, but Kwyn rejects the offer and stays on manual, which triggers an unexpected advert protocol across the ship. Mario attempts to address the problem, but can’t get the ads to stop interrupting our trip. Unfortunately, the engines pause while the ads play, but thankfully, they’re almost all short 15-second spots.

Drawings of characters from the story: Cinder, Kwyn, and Otar in his postal cap.

Cara goes to the med-bay to see Tobias because her encounter with the package has left her feeling unwell. She tries to tell him how the other packages keep screaming that they’re in danger, but Tobias is more interested in his research. He gives her headache meds and goes back to his work. As we’re approaching Venus, Kwyn reports the engines are overheating. Mario begins shutting down nonessential systems to reduce the strain on the engines, and digs into the cooling system to see what he can do. Using the newly available power from the diverted systems, he manages to improve the cooling efficiency and end the threat of overheating. All this work has Kwyn tuckered out, so we stop at a station orbiting Venus to rest. On board, Otar uses his contacts to get us a decent lunch at the station cafeteria, but he gets a notification from Post Central that pay cuts are coming. Tobias spends his time sending messages back to Earth and succeeds at delaying any pay cuts for the moment, using his own contacts in the Postal hierarchy.

Back en route to our delivery coordinates, Kwyn sounds the alarm when several ships move into intercept courses. Our life scans indicate we’re outnumbered in personnel as well as ships, so Otar decides we’d better negotiate rather than fight. He and Hengin meet with the captain of the opposition. This other captain, Cinder, says we have to surrender the package because it’s a danger to the whole system. Otar’s sense of responsibility won’t let him relinquish, but Hengin suggests we could give it to them if they signed for it at the delivery address. With all parties agreed, we attach a tow cable between our ships and let them fly us to the coordinates. En route, Captain Cinder tries to convince Cara of the malevolence of the software inside the box, but she is already inclined to believe it.

When we arrive at the delivery point, we see a perfectly cylindrical object floating in space. There are no obvious doors, but Hengin suits up and escorts the package and Captain Cinder to the surface of the cylinder and gets Cinder to sign for the package. When Cinder tries to get back on our ship, Kwyn releases the tow cable and pulls away from the cylinder with the pair still below. Leaving Cinder behind, Hengin uses his spacewalking skills and maneuvering jetpack to rendezvous with the ship and crawls inside. We fly off and escape while Cinder’s crew is busy retrieving their captain.

A Noble Final Girl Sacrifice

In this week’s session, we played The Final Girl by Bret Gillan as a group of urban explorers spelunking through the tunnels below the city.

We begin our story with the group mustering for their delve. Linda is a programmer by day and greets her risk-taking friend Terza when she arrives. Terza, however, is not happy to see Dan the dentist when he rolls up behind her, followed by Jessie, an engineer and builder. As we gather our gear, Alan timidly asks Leona to wear a helmet cam since she’s so strong, but she is concentrating on her prep exercises and rebuffs him. Angel volunteers to wear the cam in their new spelunking helmet to help Alan with getting the footage for his art. As we begin our descent, Clara begins singing a show tune, showing off her broadway pipes. Hank finds her singing pleasant, but Kim, urban professional and mother, finds it disruptive and tells her to quiet down.

Gareth and Robin are leading the group down, Gareth always insisting he take the lead. Robin talks at him constantly until he explodes in anger and stomps off. He’s abruptly pulled up into the darkness above and wrapped into a web-sac by a gigantic spider-like creature. When Robin goes looking for him, the spider waits, drops on her, and bites down, snapping her neck. We see now that the spider’s body merges with the torso of a woman.

Following the sounds of Gareth’s voice, Dan, Linda, and Kim arrive moments later. While Linda and Kim go on talking and becoming friends, Dan wanders away on his own. Seeing something shiny on the floor, he bends down to pick it up, and the spider goes flying over him. Having missed Dan, the spider grabs Linda in her human arms and squeezes, breaking her back, and skitters back up into the shadows. Off in a side tunnel, Jessie is admiring the architecture of the tunnel and begins climbing a wall ladder, where he encounters a woman who claims to be trapped in an alcove. Her name, she says, is Rachnia. Alan and Angel yell for Jessie to come down, but he says he needs to help the woman. When a brick from above comes falling toward him, he tumbles backward away from the opening. Thwarted in bringing him to her, Rachnia throws a line of webbing down to grab Angel and pull him up into her hole.

Terza, Clara, and Leona are making their way down a tunnel when they see something that makes them stop. The walls themselves seem broken, and the light down the tunnel is fragmented. As they approach, they realize that the tunnel is criss-crossed by a gigantic web. Leona turns just in time to swat aside the spider jumping for her, but Terza and Clara aren’t as lucky. The spider manages to knock each of them into the webs, so she can take her time clamping her jaws onto their heads to silence their screams. Elsewhere, Jessie, Hank, and Dan have gathered in an abandoned subway car on one of the side tracks. Hank doesn’t believe Jessie and Dan about the lady or the spider, but then behind him, Rachnia says they are telling the truth and lunges for him. Hank slips away so she turns toward Jessie, but Dan pushes Jessie from behind toward the spider, causing the spider to miss Jessie and Dan to sprawl backwards. As he scrambles away, the spider skewers him where he lies, turns to web Hank into her arms, and scrambles off with her two latest victims.

The survivors have gathered to make a run for the surface: Leona, Jessie, Kim, and Alan. Jessie can’t believe he was fooled by the spider’s womanly appearance. The spider leaps at him again, saying “Don’t worry love; I won’t let you go,” but Jessie slips away again. Leona dodges an attack against her by doing a wall run, and Kim hits the spider hard across the face with her backpack when she turns to her. To protect Alan and the others, Leona pulls flares from her pack, lights them, and leaps at the spider in a direct assault. Her actions give the others time to dash up the stairs and back to the safety of the city lights. Jessie takes one last wistful glance over his shoulder, watching flames engulf the two as they fight.