Until We Sink into the Sea

Tonight we played Until We Sink by Magnus Jakobsson in which we play the natives running a hotel on a small island slowly sinking into the sea and the guests who visit the hotel. We are Martin the hotel caretaker, Belinda the hotel’s owner, Gordon a retiree and guest, Dwyane Stone a geologist guest, and Orana the sun worshipping guest.

Our story begins when Josh the sport fisherman guest is found dead below the cliffs. Martin and Stone suspect foul play immediately while Belinda and Orana think it an accident, but Gordon insists they recover the body for a proper burial. The next day, after they’ve put his body out to sea, the small cross put up in his memory has the word “SWINE” painted across it. To many, this suggests that the death was murder, but it leads them to search his room and find a map with an X marked on a small, nearby island labeled Atlantis. That island is visible from the cliffs above where Josh’s body was found. The next day, we discover, carved on a tree, “Orana, we meet again.” She insists that she’s never been here before but consults an astrological chart to see how the moon may be connected. Belinda explains from her previous travels, how spirits have visited the island. No one takes Orana up on the suggestion that we should all stay in one room tonight for protection.

More mysterious notes appear the next day, when an envelope is found in Josh’s room that contains his tickets to the island, reservations for the hotel, and a note telling him to enjoy the vacation, write something great afterwards, and is signed “A fan.” Josh, it turns out, was Josh Carpenter, the famous horror writer. On the envelope itself is scribbled, “Looking forward to meeting you.” That night, Stone sees a figure in the storm near the cliffs. Gordon had walked the perimeter of the hotel to assuage Belinda and Orana’s fears, but had returned indoors when the storm came. After much speculation about ghosts, screams, and what’s reality, the group agrees they should stick together and prepare to sleep on the porch tonight and will investigate the cliffs in the morning. The next day, while Martin discovers an ancient fishing rod on the cliffs, a pair of drunken teenagers greet Orana on the docks and disturb the group for most of the day before sailing away on their power boat. Orana notes a tag on the rod that is a Shinto symbol for warding off evil spirits.

The next day, a cataclysm, as the island finally sinks into the sea. Orana believes the sea has come for her and all the happenings on the island are about her. But Martin reveals that he had invited Josh Carpenter to the island because, as the only one who’d lived here his entire life, he knew the island took people, that its spirit would appear and take people to sustain it against the sea. But Josh wasn’t enough spirit for the island to hold off the sea, not with the sea’s avatar, Orana, on it. Orana feels that she must give herself to the sea to prevent this from happening again, but Belinda convinces her to join her in opening a new hotel on another island, perhaps the Atlantis marked out by Josh on his map. Martin and Gordon agree to accompany them, at least for a time.

The Final Girl Makes a Call

Tonight we played The Final Girl by Bret Gillan in a secluded research facility that receives a genetically perfected humanoid subject for testing. Our story begins with Walden the lazy office administrator, Tracey the focused project lead, Edgar the traitorous supervisor, and Carson the talkative assistant receiving the experiment on the loading dock, which they transfer to the observation room. In the observation room, Krysten the unscrupulous researcher, Tilda the aggressive researcher, Troy the nervous biologist, and Leopold the naive intern discover the creature is genderless and extremely powerful when it destroys a box to get a food. Leopold suggests talking to it more, but the group decides to replace the simple box with an indestructible puzzle box for the next experiment to test its thinking ability. At the pool, Marie the athletics researcher runs the experiment through a battery of swimming tests against a couple of human volunteers: always-angry Stacy and always-jovial Verona while Neil the buff janitor cleans some vomit in the corner from an earlier test run. The volunteers get freaked out when the experiment swims at them aggressively and at tremendous speed. Later, Neil and Richard are killed at the water cooler when the experiment breaks loose and attacks.

In the offices, Walden, Edgar and Krysten are discussing a possible food shortage for the test subjects, but Krysten suggests lowering their expected intake to match the food stores. The experiment arrives in all its shining glory, a perfect human specimen, grabs Walden and snaps their neck. In one of the labs, Tracey and Carson are interviewing Verona about her experiences in the tests when the experiment bursts in and throws the lab door at Tracey but it flies over her head. It then picks up an entire lab bench to throw at them all, which again misses, then it grabs Carson and throws him into the ceiling, snapping his spine. Tilda, Stacy, and Leopold are arguing about whether to continue the tests in light of the attacks when the experiment leaps in baring its fangs at Leopold before grabbing Stacy, this time anticipating the dodges that she would make. Back on the loading dock, Edgar is preparing to leave but being confronted by Marie about why he’s bugging out early when Leopold runs in hysterical from the last attack. The experiment arrives and simply grabs Edgar and crushes his skull, the rips the fork off a nearby lift and impales Marie upon its tines.

Watching from above, Krysten, Tilda, and Tracey are very excitedly taking notes and discussing the next steps they should take with the experiment until it comes crashing through the windows of their observation deck and tosses both Krysten and Tilda behind it to their deaths. Tracey runs for the exit, joined by Leopold and Verona at the front door. But the experiment is too fast by this point and before they can unlock the facility to escape, it arrives and smashes the electronic keypad. It grabs the exposed wires and Tracey at the same time, shocking her to death, then brings the ceiling down on Leopold and Verona. It walks out into the woods that surround the secluded facility. Moments later, Leopold manages to pull himself from the rubble, pulls out a phone, dials, and reports: “It’s done.”

Quiet Year at the Bottom of the Sea

Tonight we played Quiet Year by Avery Alder where we explore the life of the community at Research Station 59 at the bottom of the sea after a nuclear apocalypse ends civilization on the surface. Early after the apocalypse, a typhoon destroys one of the station’s two water intake engines, so engineer W begins and completes repairs in a few weeks. Drs. Sanders and Xu continue, even after the apocalypse, to fight between themselves over their competing theories regarding the purpose of whale song. Research intern Varick spots the elusive sea butterflies migrating, and takes that as a good sign, but then Dr. Sparks confesses that his early sonar research was responsible for the mass death of whale populations years ago. We successfully harvest the algae nodules that grow nearby and bring them inside, but will putting them in our greenhouse contaminate the indoor plants? We discover an unexploded nuclear missile loose on the sea floor, so disarm it and dump it into the nearby sea trench to keep it from drifting too close to the station. Despite all the turmoil, we stick to our morning ritual of sharing coffee and pastries (as long as they last) to keep the group together.

Triplets are born on the station to Quinn, wife of research scientist Donatella. An audit of Dr. Sparks sonar data shows that, whatever he may have done in the past, his current work is reliable science. Whale pods are spotted south of the station and the most beautiful thing nearby is the bioluminescent valley filled with multicolored fish. The sudden encroaching of the algae fields spark panic and conspiracy as people worry that it could overtake and disable the station. Furthering the panic, Dr. Xu disappears when returning from a mission outside the dome to study the whale movements. Not long after that, three survivors from an underwater luxury condo project arrive at the station in a caviar submarine. We discover that a stone with the astrological sign for pisces on it provides people with the ability to see from another’s point-of-view, and Dr. Sparks leaves the community to live in the luxury condos alone. By rotating the station, we’re able to change the light dynamics and halt the advance of the algae, quieting the mass sense of panic.

After working many weeks, construction of a parabolic mirror to gather and redirect sunlight from the surface down to the station is completed, bringing us much needed light for growing plants and for mental and physical health. Our efforts to fish using the algae as bait are successful and a crew of full-time fishers is established. Dr. Sander’s whale study reveals that the sea trench is actually a whale graveyard, and after much discussion, the community eventually begins a project to dismantle the missile and remove it piecemeal until the whale’s sacred land is clear of contamination. Before that project gets underway, Dr. Sparks dies trying to remove the missile on his own. Just as rumors begin to swirl suspecting Sanders of causing Xu’s death, Dr. Xu reappears, having gotten lost in the algae fields while carrying out new studies on the plants.

The triplets begin to cry constantly causing serious consternation in the community until the observation deck is transformed into a nursery where the babies can get more light and see the beauties of the sea. Water temperature readings reveal a new deep sea vent opening, and after Dr. Xu’s studies reveal additional uses for algae when subjected to heat, we move algae containers near the vents. A refugee from the condo settlement arrives begging to join the community and brings a cache of paper as a bribe to be let inside. Then the sea butterflies return, we complete the dismantling of the rocket, and we organize a community event to celebrate our survival for almost a year. The arrival of the Frost Shepherds signals the end of the game.

Lasers & Feelings & Smoke Brandy

This week we played Lasers & Feelings by John Harper as the erstwhile crew of the interstellar scout ship Raptor while our Captain is incapacitated in the ship’s medpod. Our crew includes Frostbyte, an android scientist who simply wants to know how things work; Ensign Chrissy Lewis, a hot-shot pilot whose mostly wants to keep flying awesome; Ambassador Sparrow, a savvy envoy out to learn about alien cultures; Sabik, an alien engineer more concerned with getting footage of xirself fixing things for xir social media channels than solving problems; and Mimosa Stardust, an intrepid explorer out to find (and punch in the face) new worlds.

Drawing of an alien with purple hair, the handwitten name Sabik and social media platforms to follow.

Our story begins with Sparrow sharing drinks with Mimosa in the ship’s lounge and discussing the upcoming treaty negotiation at their destination, Zaxtor, until Mimosa passes out on the table. Elsewhere, Sabik convinces Frostbyte to allow xir to dissect the android’s arm on a livestream. Later on the bridge, Chrissy asks Sabik about the strange behavior of Lt. Hastings when the Captain was placed in the medpod after succumbing to a strange psychic entity. Sabik decides to film Hastings to investigate. In engineering, Frostbyte asks Sabik and Sparrow about the fabled Star Dreadnought in the Lambda quadrant and learns about the sensitivity of the Quarg Empire on the subject, how travel near it is forbidden, and the wild rumors that it can affect the fabric of spacetime. Despite Sparrow’s many warnings, Frostbyte remains curious and Sabik is convinced that a trip to the Dreadnought would go viral. Mimosa, having overheard the conversation about the Star Dreadnought, convinces Chrissy to take a shortcut through Hive space to get to Zaxtor quicker in light of the happenings on the ship.

But the Raptor doesn’t make it through Hive space undetected and, in fact, is attacked by Hive ships, who, according to messages intercepted by Sabik, believe our ship is overrun by brain worms. Making the connection to the entity that incapacitated the Captain, Mimosa and Frostbite go to the medbay to investigate, and Chrissy keeps the ship and everyone safe with remarkable evasive maneuvers. In the medbay, Mimosa detects a strong, unfamiliar scent while Frostbyte sees Hastings acting strangely on the security footage but also confirms the footage has been tampered with and is missing key moments. When the ship refuses to slow and drop into orbit around Zaxtor, Chrissy realizes the ship is now controlled from the auxiliary bridge near engineering, and the group decides to rush auxiliary control. Mimosa’s attempt to shoot the door open fails and unleashes a charge of ionized smoke throughout the corridor. Sabik modifies her blaster to get us into control where we find Hastings in a trance-like state at the controls. We pull him away to discover the control interface destroyed with the ship locked into a collision course with the fabled location of the Star Dreadnought. Sabik backs up Frostbyte as best he can and hooks his systems up to the controls directly.

After wresting back control of the ship and restoring bridge functions, Frostbyte uses the Raptor’s superior sensors, once Mimosa has space-walked out to adjust the sensor array, to scan the ship’s interior for the brain worm infestation the Hive warned about. The worms, almost microscopic in size, are everywhere, including in us, but their concentration is lightest in the smoke-filled corridor where Mimosa had blasted us into auxiliary control. Surmising that smoke killed them as it would any brain cells, parasitic or otherwise, we realize we need to kill some brain cells of our own and fill the ship with smoke. Frostbyte uses his complete control of the ships ventilation systems to create a reverse pressure system to get to the holding bay before succumbing to the worms. In the cargo hold, Sparrow has secured an entire case of Arcturian smoke brandy, which we consume in great quantities until our brains are sloshed but clear of the brain worm infestation.

Jump the Martian Shark

Tonight, we played a session of Jump the Shark by Matt Jones and created a terrible comedic sci-fi television show called The Lost Horizon about a restaurant in a mall on Mars. One main character is Xinta, a young Martian native fresh out of high school, who started the series as a naive, lost waif but who ended the first two seasons having found a purpose: making her love for Zoltan known. Zoltan is a hot young African-American human in his early twenties who just needed a summer job but came to love this restaurant and restaurant work because it brings him in contact with so many people. The fans love these two because who better to ship than star-crossed, cross-species lovers, especially when Zoltan remains so oblivious to it all. Our last main character is Sheila, a shy cashier in her late twenties, still living at home with her parents who forced her out of the house in search of work but who ends the second season as the store’s assistant manager. She is all grrrl power and the fans eat it up.

After season 2, however, the writers are all out of ideas and have turned to the roulette wheel of plot tropes to keep their renewed show going. In season 3, they throw a beach party on a planet with no water and have Zoltan crash it through virtual reality as his game leads his avatar into the party, where Xinta sits crushed that the real Zoltan never showed. The next episode has them all at work, hungover from the beach party and struggling to make it through the day, which leads to the live martian “lobsters” delivered to the restaurant running loose through the restaurant. Zoltan, in the doghouse with Xinta and Sheila, saves the day by luring the lobsters back into their box with cheetos. Later in the season, they switch from comedy to horror in a Halloween special when first customers, then Sheila, disappear. It’s up to Xinta to arm herself with a water gun to drive off the monster lobsters infesting the restaurant.

In season 4, we start with a magician entering the restaurant and wowing us with his magic that we can never figure out. Nothing appears on the security tapes to show how he does his tricks, but when we finally get him out and think we’ve got it all figured out, the lights turn out on their own. In a later episode, Xinta is waiting tables at two restaurants simultaneously, trying to impress another restaurateur, while Zoltan shops in the mall and watches her rushing back and forth. She keeps getting the orders mixed up and the new restaurant sends her packing, but Sheila has been covering for her and everything’s still great at the Lost Horizon. Near season’s end, we have a musical episode where each of us sings about our feelings. Xinta sings while opening the restaurant in the morning about her love for Zoltan. During the shift, Sheila sings about how she’s finally going to ask for the raise she deserves for running the store, but when she opens the door to the office at the end of the number, she says nothing and steps outside again. Zoltan’s song comes when he’s closing the restaurant and thinking about his day and how much he loves the restaurant.

In season 5, the crew gets locked inside the walk-in freezer so Sheila has to crawl out through the cooling system piping to engineer their escape. In another episode, they are on a road trip to Herby, the restaurant owner’s wedding, but they get lost when the car’s AI gets too sad to talk anymore and stops providing directions. Then a dust storm knocks out the car’s solar power, and when the storm clears, they learn that Herby has called off the wedding. Later in the season, Sheila goes to jail when she calls the police to remove long-time customer and major annoyance Cosmo but they get the names reversed on the paperwork and try to remove her from the story. Eventually, Zoltan and Xinta convince Cosmo to straighten it out with the police, but must promise to give him a job at the restaurant before he’ll agree to help.

In the final episode, once the show is finally cancelled, Xinta finally tells Zoltan of her love for him and he agrees to go on a date. Meanwhile, Sheila has finally been offered a chance to run her own restaurant by Horizon’s great rival and decides to take it. When the series ends, she closes The Lost Horizon one last time and turns the lights out as she leaves, saying goodbye. Will there be a Zoltan & Xinta spin-off?

Venturing toward Phoenix

Tonight we played Venture by Riley Rethal as a group of adventurers living in a seaside port defined by a rivalry between its school of magic and its elegant cathedral. We are Jacques the Bard, Grifter the Rogue, Lordan the Wizard, Tabris the Cleric, and Malcolm the Fighter.

After working through our distrust of one another, we discover that the youth of the city have begun spreading graffiti through the use of magical vials of blue liquid. Through trial and error, we learn that when ingested the blue liquid enables the user to spray anti-religious words onto any surface. Through further investigation, we discover that the magic depends on the trapping of the spirit of newly reborn phoenixes. Struggling to return the young spirits to their rightful place, we perform a ritual to learn that a phoenix nests across the narrow sea atop a mountain, and promise to embark upon a quest to find it.

Superheroic Archipelago

Tonight, we played Archipelago by Mathijs Holter in a comic book world of superheroes and villains with megalomaniacal plans. T Vanguard consists of team leader and time-displaced scientist adventurer, Prof. Anna Chronos; telepath and therapist at the Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Spin Doctor; tech-enhanced speedster and daughter of villainous mastermind Dr. Sinister, Nightflame; and STAR Labs’ experiment and super-strong hero, Crossfit.

Our story begins with Prof. Chronos leading Spin Doctor and Nightflame to examine a long-dormant volcano where unusual activity has recently been detected. They are attacked by a gigantic cyborg spider that Spin Doctor defeats by blocking the mental signals used to control it. At STAR Labs, Dr. Jones informs Crossfit that his body is rejecting the nanobots that keep his enhancements working, so his powers and system may not be entirely stable. After the volcano incident, Spin Doctor returns to the Asylum to extract the information he needs from one of Dr. Sinister’s minions and learns of a nuclear bomb being set within the volcano. Back at Vanguard HQ, Dr. Sinister sends a hologram into the room of Nightflame to taunt her daughter and Prof. Chronos.

The whole team storms the volcano, which is now covered by a swarm of mechanical spiders. Crossfit strikes the ground to create an opening for Nightflame to rush inside and disarm the bomb, but then his powers fail him and the group is almost overrun by the spiders before his powers return as mysteriously as they left and they manage to escape with the disarmed nuke. Afterward, Nightflame and Spin Doctor concoct a plan to draw Dr. Sinister out to unveil her true plan and learn whether she truly cares for Nightflame by putting her into danger that only Dr. Sinister can protect her from. When Nightflame explains their plan to Prof. Chronos, the Prof. protests but relents when she realizes that Nightflame will go through with it on her own otherwise, and they discuss Prof. Chronos’s incomplete calculations to enable time travel. Finally, Spin Doctor visits an underworld diner to try gaining access to Dr. Sinister’s lair, but once he gets inside the island lair, his powers are neutralized and Sinister’s minions easily overpower him.

Our story concludes with a frontal assault on the Island of Dr. Sinister where each of us is shot by a “disintegration” ray that actually teleports us away into confinement, where a Dr. Sinister hologram visits each of us in turn. Sinister tempts Spin Doctor with a helmet to enhance his powers allowing him to manipulate matter as well as minds if he will pull one job for him afterward. When Spin Doctor agrees and puts on the helmet, the surge of power allows Spin Doctor to read Sinister’s mind and learn that she is not Nightflame’s biological mother. Dr. Sinister offers to repair and restore Crossfit’s systems and powers if he will join her organization, but the straight-laced hero refuses. Dr. Sinister tries to convince Nightflame to give up her mediocre team of heroes and return to lead Sinister’s army in the new world order, but then Nightflame gets a psychic flash of the information that Spin Doctor gleaned about her true parentage. Nightflame says that she’ll never join with Sinister but will work forever to stop her schemes and bring her to justice. Sinister’s hologram disappears and lock on Nightflame’s cell clicks open. Prof. Chronos and Dr. Sinister bargain back and forth, Chronos pleading for her team to be spared unlike her original team, lost in the Hidden Lands all those decades ago and Sinister showing where her time travel research went awry. Sinister agrees not to kill Vanguard and Chronos agrees to test her time travel device by stepping through to the past before her original expedition was lost.

In the epilogue, Nightflame frees her teammates and, as they’re freeing Crossfit, and elderly Prof. Chronos appears with a cure for his condition and they return to battle Dr. Sinister, who escapes through a portal like the one that Prof. Chronos had disappeared through an hour before.

Palanquin for Two

Tonight we played Palanquin again, this time with only two bearers—the Bearers of Magic and Nature—to escort Princess Ulkualzi to her Aunt Baru’s home and safety. We begin, as always, in the kitchen with the Heir hiding from the sounds of the violent coup underway upstairs. The Hunter appears following a bear wandering through the halls and the Magister comes scrounging magical components from the kitchen supplies.

A dark-skinned woman in a cloak with an upraised hood glares off to the left in front of a fiery moon. Palanquin a roleplaying game of escape & trust is printed on the right side.
Image courtesy of Genesis of Legend Games.

As we exit the kitchen attempting to flee the palace, an animated suit of armor blocks our path, but the Hunter and his companion tear the suit apart and we escape into the surrounding town among the people. As we make our way through the market district, we find we’re being trailed by feral wildcats, but the Magister distracts with a light show that confounds the cats, allowing us to slip into the smuggler tunnels beneath the capital. As we make our way through this sewer, on the lookout for cultists and reptilian creatures, a shadow appears before us, barring our way. The Hunter attempts to make an offering of poisonous mushrooms, but the incorporeal being ignores him. The Heir, however, recognizes the shadow as the Weeping Lady, a ghost who haunts the capital, and calls upon the power of her station to command her to let them pass.

We emerge from the tunnels into the purple jungle with its alligators and places of divine power and native peoples. We create a makeshift raft to travel downriver, but a fairy known as the Tempest appears and the river becomes dangerous as a violent storm rises. The Magister asks the fairy to stop but the storm worsens as ferocious fish fall from the sky. So, the Heir rallies her bearers to row for shore where they quickly light a fire to ward off the wilds and protect them until the storm passes. As we begin walking through the jungle, a wasp the size of a bull flies toward us, but the Magister is ready with a malodorous spray that drives the creature away.

Finally, we come to the demon wastes, littered with broken bones and dark overcast skies. If we can find the right gravesite, we’ll have the instructions we need to escape the wastes and emerge into Baru’s lands. First, we must overcome the shadow poison that seeps into our bodies and souls. The Magister casts a protective spell that shields us from its noxious effects, but as we come upon the graveyard, we are attacked by zombie skeletons emerging from the ground. The Hunter and his bear try to fight them off but they keep coming in unending waves. The Heir begins a holy prayer for deliverance, but the zombies reach up and grab her legs and cloak as she kneels. The Magister must act to save her before it’s too late. His incantations bring forth a horde of fiery beasts that fly about and destroy the zombies to save the Heir.

In Aunt Baru’s royal chambers, Princes Ulkualzi offers Periani the Hunter, Master of Nature, her most sincere thanks and appoints Tanalor the Magister, Master Sorcerer, to a place on her royal council.

Microscope on the Stars

Tonight we played Microscope by Ben Robbins to create the story of humans venturing into the stars to escape the ecological disaster they had created on Earth.

Our story begins during the bioengineering crisis when Dr. Isabel Caldwell creates hydrocarbon eating bacteria that she uses to clean the oceans of spilled oils and plastic detritus, and the new genetic modification technology spawns a body-mod industry. But the HCE bacteria become a plague on our planet, destroying the fossil fuels that our economy depends on faster than we can replace it. In despair, Dr. Caldwell commits suicide after handing over her bacteria data. After this, humanity enters a period of limited resources when people return to small local farms and live a more sustainable, subsistent lifestyle. On these farms the Gratz family grows corn for the husks, which are bacteria resistant, and marry into the Caldwell family, whose youngest, Susie, becomes a famous singer.

In the Lunar Years, humanity begins to settle within the moons of the solar system, establishing Gratz station as the first permanent lunar settlement. L.U.N.A (Lyrical Universe Navigation Agency) tests an instant bio-dome project on the moon, and then humanity builds settlements on the moons of Jupiter & Saturn. Before long, the Great Migration begins, when humanity sends fleets of generation ships to distant stars likely to sustain life. The Luna gets separated from it’s fleet due to a navigation glitch and is lost. Another Dr. Caldwell discovers a habitable planet and joins a mutiny aboard the Phoenix when Commander Nikolai Luna refuses to allow anyone to explore or attempt to settle there.

Eventually, families do leave the ships and begin settling the planets they find, founding dome cities to protect them from the harsh climates. One enclave learns to domesticate creatures they call space whales, with a magical ability to bear untold burdens and travel through the vacuum of space. When a supernova threatens life on the new system, the people of Caldwell City escape with help from the space whales, which leads to the loss of technology and technical know-how, as life among the space whales takes on a clannish nature. People have already begun to learn the songs of the whales before the various clans join in a great Conclave to reunite and bring order to the disparate human diaspora.

Our story ends as humanity begins to settle together on a New Eden, a planet in which they can live without their technological protection, but under the sky as their ancestors did. The children learn epic songs telling how humanity, and their own families, came to New Eden, and a shrine is built to Dr. Isabel Caldwell, the primeval god who set in motion humanity’s liberation from technology.

No Casino Boundaries

Tonight we played No Boundaries by Marc Hobbs in a bookstore inside the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. We arrive in the morning for New Year’s Day and commiserate about our evenings. Aspiring model and store cashier Nick had gone to a swanky party. Former soccer pro and store gift wrapper Raul had stayed in watching a replay of an old Man U-Chelsea match. Ivanna, the store’s storyteller and a would-be YouTuber, had stayed home with her family. Secret revolutionary and cashier Beatrix had spent the evening monitoring the police scanner. And receiving clerk and weight-lifter Xander had gone to a working class party with the other gym rats.

We start the year off learning that corporate wants us to push a membership card program with the national winners for best sales winning an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas for an awards ceremony. In preparing the store for sales, Xander pumps boxes of books over his head helping a store shelver to create book displays above the shelves. Beatrix spends her breaks complaining about the capitalist inanity of the program, but Ivanna convinces her that they should promote a Book Con to improve sales. Raul convinces Nick and Xander to create a viral video of them wrapping books as a way of promoting the memberships. Nick and Beatrix keep escalating their sales techniques with one shopper who is looking to get a Harry Potter book for his daughter and eventually sells him 10 cards for less than the price of one. And Ivanna can stop chattering about how beautiful Nick is while they put up displays for Book Con together.

Red stick figure stands in front of bookshelves loaded with book with section heads stating "Business" and "Failure".
Image courtesy of Less Than Three Games from Itch.io

Corporate’s next big idea is to cut down on expenses as they start charging employees for using electricity and toilet paper and clamping down on bathroom breaks. Beatrix starts off complaining with Ivanna and Raul about the new rules, but Raul shrugs it off by suggesting they use his wrapping paper or pages from old paperbacks instead. Nick goes out to the loading dock and takes a workout break with Xander, and they share their concern for the well-being of everyone under these new rules. Ivanna catches Raul taking her lunch again after a smoke break and, after much debate, agree to split and share the meal prep, with Ivanna taking the first month and Raul the next. Raul next goes to talk to Xander honestly about how upset he was when Xander wrestled him to the floor because he’s still rehabbing his knee and hoping to return to the pitch.

Before Raul has to cook any meals for Ivanna, the store closes down and everyone goes their own way. Before we do, Beatrix confesses her secret desire to become a modern-day Robin Hood and bring down the capitalist swine who run the casinos. Ivanna ends up on unemployment, crying at home. Raul returns to soccer as best he can. Nick decides he needs to improve his legs if he wants to make it as a model and joins a gym for some legwork. And Xander sneaks off with a couple of boxes of books that he sells for money to throw a beer party on New Year’s Eve.