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.

Dawn of the Dragon Invasion

In the week’s session of Dawn of the Monster Invasion by Randy Lubin, we portrayed six speeches to follow the invasion and response to an incursion of dragons across the world.

Our story begins with a backpacker in a National Park telling everyone she can find about the bird-bat hybrids she saw flying in the fog on the mountaintop. She describes the leathery wings and long beaks but is puzzled when she remembers the long tail. Later, a herpetologist at a scientific conference presents his findings from his efforts to find and identify the creature the hiker saw. He believes that it is a dragon, although he’s willing to entertain other words for the creature. He tells about the long scorch marks like a flamethrower shot through the trees, but the other conference-goers believe his lifelong obsession with dragons is clouding his scientific judgement. Some think he may even have manipulated his data to draw his desired conclusion. Surely, there is another, simpler explanation.

The Bounders live-streamer goes out into the Park looking to prove the reports true by getting the creature, whatever it is, on film. His commenters include plenty of skeptics, people who say he’s using a green screen and not even in the park. He shows the world around him to prove his honesty, but then sees something that frightens him. He sees a bird and follows its flight so fails to see the small dragon that flits between trees behind him. A gigantic shadow passes over him, and he looks up when he hears the flapping of giant wings. He screams and the stream goes silent.

At a PTA meeting in a school across the state from the park, a mother named Susan exhorts everyone to prepare for the dragons, and to build their own bunker. You’ll need as much canned food and toilet paper as you can store. She has a sealed, safe concrete bunker in her basement and ends up inviting the other parents to stay with her when they start asking questions. She says she has plenty of water and fire extinguishers for the stay. One mother insists on bringing a bevy of tutors for her daughter to prepare her daughter for college once we emerge from the bunker in about five years. Susan storms off when that woman starts claiming ownership of the bunker for herself and threatens to kick Susan out. We’re all left wondering if the invitation still stands.

Many months later, after the dragons have begun appearing all over, ever closer to populated areas, a group of investors has gathered in a lone conference room to hear the pitch from one James Weldon. James wants to steal dragon eggs, raise and domesticate them, and open parks for people to see these creatures up close. They might even be able to ride them. Most of us doubt his ability to deliver, what with him never before having found a dragon egg or spent any time training them. Others think his monetization plan is too narrow, when there could be many other, more lucrative applications for domesticated dragons. Meanwhile across the country, a group of government bureaucrats are meeting with a researcher who insists that the best way to destroy these pests is by introducing reptile pathogens into their habitats. The hope is if you infect one of the large enclaves that the disease will spread to other areas, weakening the creatures enough to make eradication easy. Any collateral damage could easily be contained through quarantine protocols, he assures them. If the military can procure some test subjects and he can build out his team of experts, we can have a working prototype in a few short months.

However, his plan apparently fails because our final speech is made by a lizard person, a humanoid with reptilian eyes and scaly skin. She explains that now that her people have aided humanity, as requested, by telepathically controlling and calming the dragons, they will continue to control things here on the surface. And it won’t be necessary for our destructive human civilization to continue. They will order the dragons to delivery anything we may need to survive, and may even leave us with our precious internet for entertainment. Some lucky few of us have lizard person blood and will receive special privileges, including activation and training in the use of our dormant psychic abilities. She orders us all to go home and to stay out of trouble.

On the Galactic Rim

Our game this week is Galactic by Riley Rethal where we’re a group adventuring in a galaxy far, far away. We are fresh-faced, young scholar and innocent Nova, Liam; Yin, the tired Mechanic and her droid BeeDee; and Ayden Daviron, a Scoundrel who seems to know everyone.

Our story begins with Liam having a nightmarish vision of his older brother as a suffering child. Yin goes into his room to wake and calm the young Nova down. She’s worried about him and asks if he thinks the vision is the Force trying to guide him.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

When they first met, Liam sold his research books to pay for passage aboard Ayden’s ship. In exchange, Ayden agreed to fly wherever the kid’s search for his brother takes him, at least as long as his credits hold out. Now the visions guiding the young Nova are getting stronger and more disturbing.

Yin joined us mostly involuntarily after being stranded on a world at the edge of Mandate control after her baby, a souped-up starship had been stolen. Ayden, with Liam aboard, had hired Yin to repair his ship after something rattled loose and it became near impossible to keep her level, probably some stabilizer broken when he’d crashed into a tower while stealing it. In town while the repairs were underway, Ayden and Liam encountered a bounty hunter and outraced him back to the hanger, exchanging blaster fire along the way. Yin and BeeDee were still aboard and completing repairs when Ayden rocketed out of the dock and into space. He explained to us that the bounty on his head should really be on the head of his ex-partner, a Rhodian named Pons, who betrayed him and stole a shipment that left him in debt to some very unreasonable people.

After his nightmare from the opening, Liam meditates to determine his brother’s location, and eventually emerges to tell Ayden they need to visit a forest world. Is there one close by? Ayden flies us to a popular smuggler redoubt on a forest moon in the Ebonite system. We land safely because the smugglers all know Ayden, but that includes one outraged guy named Chett, who’s got old beef with the smuggler. Once they’re off the ship, Liam feels a strong pull and goes running off into the forest alone. Meanwhile, Ayden gets into a fight with Chett at the local cantina while Yin tries, unsuccessfully, to enjoy a drink. When we’re later driven from the bar, Yin notices her stolen ship in one of the docking bays. We concoct a plan for her to sneak aboard and steal it back while Ayden distracts the thief. Ayden walks up to the current owner as he’s working in the hangar, a man named Cylus, complaining about Chett. They exchange stories until Ayden asks if Cylus has any jobs that he could cut Ayden in on. But Cylus doesn’t trust Ayden and wants nothing to do with him. Unfortunately for Cylus, Yin sneaks aboard and gets away in her ship before he can react with anything more than a few ineffectual blaster bolts.

Out in the forest, Liam approaches an abandoned, crumbling Nova temple, drawn to it, sensing an intense presence within. Inside, he finds his brother, Victor, but Victor is strange, hard and uncaring. He says he’s been calling to the young Liam to bring him here, so he can join him. Liam learns that his brother has studied here to learn the ways of the dark side, which he needed to overcome his pain. Now that he’s mastered his pain, he plans to use this power to take down the Mandate, and he needs Liam’s help. Liam agrees to help Victor in his noble cause, but surely, they can do it without the dark side. Victor rejects his brother’s naïveté and insists they discover the other temples of power and master their dark secrets.

Once Yin and Ayden have reconnected, they go off to meet Liam at the temple. He’s clearly troubled when we find him, and we try to convince him to come with us, to join us in our adventures rather than getting involved in an impossible quest that’s going to get him killed. But Liam can’t abandon his brother now that he’s found him, so he pays Ayden for his passage. Unsure what else to do, Ayden and Yin watch Liam say goodbye and walk back into the temple, determined to save his brother and the galaxy at the same time.

The Disappearing Magic Circle

We returned, this week, to The Magic Circle by Jason Morningstar, in which we play the supernatural monsters living in the titular cul-de-sac. There are four of us. Ylda the writer is a werewolf who lives in #25 with her werewolf husband and two children. Zaragoza the injury attorney lives at the corner of the Circle and Joy Lane, from where he watches the whole neighborhood. Vedette Rasep is a former psychic whose soul is trapped inside a doll and who gets around by controlling the mind and body of whomever “owns” the doll. She lives at # 17 and makes a good living selling doll clothes for dolls and people on Etsy. Finally is Townes the golden retriever, who lives with a family with three children at # 26 and became super-intelligent after having been abducted by aliens. Townes leads our monthly council meetings.

Our first meeting is at Vedette’s house, although she fails to provide much edible for the group. Ylda begins the meeting by lamenting the teenagers hanging out in the forest and seriously interfering with her and Hordlak’s werewolf activities. She suggests we need a better youth center to keep them occupied elsewhere. Vedette thinks we should make them sick, or make one disappear, to ward off the others. Townes proposes the community build a skate park over in the undeveloped expansion lot. Ylda says she can speak to the other parents at school about where else the kids might go and gauge interest in a skate park. Townes agrees to follow the kids into the woods and see what they’re up to.

Zaragoza is irate about all the geese in the neighborhood and their droppings everywhere. Someone mentions geese love water; if there was a larger body of water nearby, perhaps they would simply leave. Zaragoza agrees to talk to the developer, who he knows from his legal work, about building a skate park and a water feature.

Townes brings the meeting around to the major problem facing the community: the recent disappearance of normal folks. He reveals that the father of his family has gone missing, and learns so has the friend of one of Ylda’s children. Zaragoza mentions that if a dozen people disappear, we can demand the state investigate rather than relying on the local police. We worry that state police might bring too much scrutiny to the area. Vedette suggests we publicize the disappearances, putting up flyers and signs, to scare folks into staying home and keeping their kids at home. It would help with the teens in the woods and maybe cut down on the vanishings. Along with these flyers, she will be putting up signs throughout the neighborhood directing people to her house because delivery people, who she depends on for her business, keep getting the addresses mixed up.

At our next meeting, Townes reports that the kids are out there being rebellious teens: smoking, drinking, littering, etc. Ylda says that the parents at the school are excited by the skate park idea, and Zaragoza says the developer is too. He won’t build a water feature to occupy the geese, but the skate park promises to be a big hit. We discuss whether and how Ylda’s family could hunt and drive off the geese, since the water idea fell through.

When we get back to the issue of the disappearances, Townes says he feels he must take direct action and plans on running away to begin searching for the vanished people. Vedette is concerned about him going alone and insists on accompanying him. Her psychic powers could be useful in finding and following clues, she says. Likewise, Ylda says that she can come to use her wolf-senses to get the scent and lead a chase. Zaragoza mentions he could release a bottled soul and ask them about the vanished, but makes no promise to do so. In the end, we all agree to meet the next morning after breakfast at Townes’ house to examine the family’s recovered car, then to follow the clues wherever they lead.

This is where we close the neighborhood meeting, and end our session. Could the disappearances be caused by a rival demon of Zaragoza, or aliens like those who took Townes, or some as yet unknown threat?

Halfway Around the Realm

This week we played Around the Realm by Randy Lubin, in which childhood friends Nella and Bly begin a journey around their fantastical land, the Whirl. Nella is street smart, cautious, and gregarious while Bly is book smart, courageous, and shy. If they can make it back home after circumnavigating the whirl before the summer solstice, they will win untold wealth from a friend who wishes to challenge them.

The first leg of their journey is among a flotilla of small craft making their way across the sea. Bly antagonizes the captain of another boat, who sidles next to us and unleashes his elephant seal onto our deck. He crashes through our rigging, but Bly manages to use the loosed ropes to tie up the seal until it calms down and we can release it back into the water. Across the sea, we enter the city of the undead, where skeletons ply their trades and live everyday lives. One day, the animals escape the zoo, and we’re surrounded by skeletal predators. Luckily for us, a skeletal zookeeper comes rushing into the middle of the animal circle waving his arms and blowing an airhorn and manages to drive them away. He encourages us to leave the city as soon as we can.

Next, we join a diplomatic delegation of elves returning to their citadel to report on their building of relations with Skeleton City. A massive storm arises with driving rains and winds, stranding us on the open plans. We stick close together until we find an empty shack where we can ride out the storm, but some of our horses are lost in the night. After the storm passes, we encounter the great tent city of the plains, full of the sounds of hawkers selling their wares, the smells of roasting meats, the sloshing of tankards of ale, the gabbling of many tongues, and the hum of multifarious peoples intermixing. As we’re navigating the markets, a tent begins to explode as fireworks are ignited. People try to escape the fire and the noise, creating a huge chaotic mass, trapping us deep inside the tent city. But Nella uses her gregarious street smarts to negotiate a way through people’s tents to avoid the overcrowded pathways and get us safely out of the mess.

We must leave our friends at this point on their journey, as we had to end early. Will they ever find their way back home? And will it be in time to win the prize?

For the Other City

This week we played a two-player game on Storysynth called For the Other City by Thomas Manuel, in which we play detectives from parallel cities who must solve a case together. Our detectives are Enders from the technological city of tomorrow, Grandis, and Wormwood from the expansive magical city of the green, Vibrantis. The crime a pair of murders, one victim from each city.

Our collaboration begins with the two detectives meeting and planning their investigation. Wormwood shares with Enders a vision she had of an indistinct person sitting in a small room in front of a table with papers strewn across it. Enders tells Wormwood of the witness he interviewed who saw a street Roomba apparently malfunctioning, so it never left the spot where hours later the Grandisian victim would be murdered. Together they discover that the victim was growing a Vibrantean flower in his apartment, a flower that powers all that city’s magic. Could the victims have been lovers and the killing due to jealousy?

For the Other City logo from Storysynth.

We’re able to corroborate the lovers hypothesis, the flower a token of affection, but we’re unable to confirm the jealousy. A member of the Vibrantean ruling council offers Wormwood a promotion if she can ensure the case is never solved, but she tells Enders all about the bribe attempt when next she sees him. The political angle makes us wonder about their connections on each side. Could they have been collaborating in an official capacity?

The Grandisian was a researcher at a major corporation (Suntex) and could have been conducting experiments on the flower, which could provide a motive. Perhaps the killer feared the fallout if the researcher discovered the flower’s properties. Stuck in Grandis for the night, Wormwood stays at the same hotel as the CEO of Suntex, who seems overly curious about her progress in the case. While Wormwood keeps the CEO occupied, Enders searches his room and discovers a table strewn with papers, the schematics for the model of street Roomba observed at the murder scene.

We finally conclude that the victims had been envoys working in an official capacity, who fell for each other, but were killed by the Vibrantean council, or at least elements within it. The council feared a scientific investigation of the magical flower would lead to industrialization of flower production that would leave Vibrantis without the flowers they need to maintain their civilization. To try catching the culprit, Wormwood pretends to report back to the council member on the case, but they don’t detect the technological wire that Enders gave Wormwood to wear, which leads them to incriminating themselves. Once they’ve got the evidence, the Grandisian police and Enders swoop in to make the arrest.

Nameless Summer

We played The Nameless Summer by Rudy Mangual this week on the StorySynth engine, in which we play a group of dissolute youths working on an island catering to summer tourists, working out the last week of the season. Our crew consists of Lolita, who works at the Market Fair 16 movie theater; Troy, who takes tourists out on his private glass-bottom, the SS Crystal Lens; Delmar, sho is a counselor at Camp Castaway summer camp; and Marcus, who works at the Penny Drop, a local boardwalk arcade.

Line drawing of person standing in front of a large solar eclipse with "The Nameless Summer" in red letters.
Nameless Summer logo from Storysynth.

That final week of summer begins with each of us at work. Delmar reads in the paper about a former fellow counselor who has gone missing. Marcus is prepping for a major eclipse this weekend that will be visible from the island. Lolita hears a group of tourists talking about the old legends about the “song of the sea” that once caused so many shipwrecks in this area. And Troy has a terrible day when his ex, Valerie, sees him covered in his most recent passengers’ vomit. Other things seem off all week: a strange fortune told, an envelope with an invitation to a mysterious event, and strange goings-on up at the old Carrington Estate.

Later in the week, we’re each haunted in some way by the past. Troy remembers getting lost in the sea caves as the water was coming in. Delmar is down by the sea caves and swears he hears the voice of a boy crying out for help. Marcus remembers the strangest thing that he swears is true: when watching Back to the Future in middle school, everything stopped and Doc Brown turned and spoke directly to him. Lolita has bad dreams about a sea creature she saw trailing the ferry when she was in third grade, which she otherwise hadn’t thought of in years. The next day, Valerie is seen in the grocery store, tenderizing the meat with a mallet while it’s still in the packaging.

The weekend has come at last and the eeriness intensifies. The eclipse is coming and the crowds are growing. Leslie, the younger sister of the missing counselor, implores Delmar to leave while he still can, so she must not know what Lolita discovers: that the harbor is closed and no one can leave the island. Marcus hears of some ritual to be performed at the sea caves at the point of totality, while Troy sees a boy on the pier whose eyes look pitch black. We go to the sea caves to see about this ritual, and discover that people are making a deal with some tentacled sea-creature we call the Traug. We try to stop them, but Marcus is pulled under by a tentacle and does not come back up. The rest of us end up in the Traug’s thrall like the rest of the town. Troy ends up sailing alone on his boat pointing things out through the glass to no one in an incoherent gibberish. Lolita continues to work at the theater, but now she has nonsense speech escaping her mouth and light emitted from her eyes. Delmar continues as a camp counselor, mindlessly doing his daily activities even though the camp is now deserted.

Lasers & Feelings & Pirates

This week, we played the original Lasers & Feelings by John Harper as the crew of the Consortium starship The Raptor. With our captain incapacitated and recovering in a medical pod, the crew must do our best in difficult circumstances. We are Zadoc, the savvy envoy who’s infinitely curious about alien cultures, Tameka, the (overly) confident and competitive pilot, and Divi, our xenobiologist who’s more interested in animals than people.

Our story begins when our ship encounters a strange vessel and its sole occupant comes aboard. He is Mori, an alien scientist always up for a space mystery. His ship has been damaged, so Zadoc invites him to magnetically attach it to our hull for transport. Mori lets slip that the ship is stolen, and Zadoc becomes concerned. Before they can discuss it, Temeka calls from the bridge because two incoming ships refuse to identify themselves and may be hostile. Zadoc joins Temeka on the bridge and attempts diplomacy after making contact, but the pirates on board are not interested in talking and move to board the ship. Temeka engages the cloak and slips away, but not before our ship is damaged; our cloak won’t protect us on our next engagement.

Drawing of a male head with pink hair and a rainbow colored beard. A headshot above and a three-quarter body below, holding a guitar. Lasers & Feelings 8-25-22 written to the right.

After we’re safely away, Zadoc asks Mori if these people are after the ship he stole. Mori answers no, but suggests they might be interested in the powerful fuel crystals he’s carrying. As we’re contemplating the pirate’s intentions, Divi reminds us of recent scientific reports of alternate realities and the possibilities of travel between them. One such reality is supposed to be full of precious elements that would make quite a haul for a pirate crew. We decide to lay a trap for the pirates, using Mori’s ship as bait, while Temeka deploys the Raptor’s fighters in a pincer maneuver if diplomacy should fail. But diplomacy does not fail, at least not exactly. While parleying with the pirates who’ve boarded Mori’s vessel demanding our valuables, Zadoc sings a song of friendship and sharing, which miraculously convinces the pirates to invite the to join their pirate crew and share in their fate.

We take back some trinkets to make them think we’re cooperating in looting Mori’s ship. On board the pirate vessel, Zadoc begins teaching the pirates how to play a universal game he’s made to help create bonds between strangers. This distraction allows Mori to steal the circuits and equipment he needs to repair his ship. Meanwhile, Divi is saving all the animals the pirates have on board, and Mori finishes by setting the pirate ship’s engines to overload and explode. The three of them slip back to Mori’s ship while the pirates play Zadoc’s game, and fly away as the pirate ship explodes in a flash of light.