Right. Cael, still with that new-character smell (of toner), gets his first mission:
“Yog-Sothoth’s all-seeing eye has found a place it cannot look. About a year from now, there is a nexus in spacetime: an event so monumentally world-shattering that even an Outer God cannot predict the extent of its effects. For the first time since you’ve listened to him, he feels…afraid.”
Right. First Mission: find bar, get blue-blind paralytic drunk, teetotaling or no, await the coming of the Martssiah. Am I right?
“At any rate, you’ve got something else to do. The first Tager pack to consider amiable relations with the GIA is about to meet their Blackspire handlers, with a view to removing the Dhohanoid infiltrators from the upper echelons of the NEG. This is a watershed moment. You must be there to ensure events unfold according to plan. In particular, they require an activity through which to bond. You must direct them to retrieve the thing from Nanjing; it is being moved through the city under Dhohanoid guard to the cargo hangar here. Attend their meeting at Toby’s Bar. Suggest its recovery. Assist events. Ease the future. You must leave immediately.”
Hey, I was right! Also, what the hell did I just hear?
Okay, so first, Yog-Sothoth is a dude? What? How the heck is an Outer God male? It’s a bunch of glowing balls; how does it even have gametes?
Secondly, since when is Yog-Sothoth capable of fear? Hell, since when is it capable of not seeing something? It’s coterminous with all space and time; it’s not a matter of seeing beyond anything, it’s a matter of already being there. And since when is it capable of letting moody introspection distract it from keeping its appointments? It’s omnipresent, and it’s too distracted by Marty to give me a day’s notice to prep stuff?
And what the hell, just generally? I’m playing camp counselor to a bunch of spies and monk-monster-people now? Join the Scions, see space and time, cheerfully suggest lethally dangerous outings to have fun. It’s like I’m supposed to be Fred. Come on, gang, let’s go solve a freakin’ mystery! Only it’s not a mystery, it’s a bunch of pissed-off monsters from beyond time and space who do not want us to steal their shineys – and in what I fear may be a distressing pattern, I agree with them! I don’t want us to steal their shineys either!
Ah, well. All right, let me call the Tagers and—
I don’t have any way to contact the Tagers!?!
Apparently, “as a Scion, [I’ve] always just shown up when I needed to.” I have no way to actually contact them; no phone number, no email, no dead drop, no nothing. Now, I know Tager packs are organized weirdly and I’d hardly expect to have every member of the pack on speed-dial, but they literally have a member of the pack dedicated to this kind of thing. But, okay, maybe their Operator is horrifically antisocial. Fine. I’ve worked with these people for how long?
“Five years, on and off.”
And never once in that time did I think to get their cell number?
Okay. Whatever. So they’re at Toby’s, and I’ve got to run there. Apparently I have none of my gear “handy” at present, except my stupidly pathetic needle gun, my coat, and my hat. FINE. Off I go.
I’ll post the diagram of the bar when it’s relevant, but it’s tiny and stupid and utterly generic. Big solid oak bar, stools, array of glasses, some booths, and full to capacity at nine AM. I asked; apparently there is no such thing as last call anymore, but still, how depressed does this city have to be to fill the bars before noon? Not just filling, mind – he mentions as I walk in that we’ve got someone chugging neat vodka, not two hours after artificial dawn. Hey, maybe they’re a fellow Scion who just heard the facepalm-worthy news.
I should mention here that Marty hates alcohol, but come on, it’s not like you have to get drunk to know how it works. I’m alcohol intolerant, for goodness’ sake, and even I don’t mess up how bars work this badly. Whatever; I ask for “whatever’s the most concentrated” and ask if I can get it to go, because apparently everything else about bars is insane now.
And that, my friends, is how I ended up sitting in front of two GIA spies and four Tagers with a 128-oz “to go” cup of 191-proof liquor, with a straw and everything. What packaged goods license restrictions?
Negotiations go well. The Tagers recognize me, and on their recommendation the GIA guys listen to me – okay, mostly because of inter-party loyalty, but still, partly plot. They’ve apparently been making introductions, and so we meet our babysitters/eternal rescuers:
Nery, the token Nazzadi of the group. She’s a chain-smoking alcoholic, because that’s a personality to Marty. She’s also the group’s Operator. This means she doesn’t turn into a monster herself; she’s more of an agent type of thing, responsible for coordinating the pack’s activities with the larger society and generally being the voice of reason while everyone else is a bit weird from sharing their head with an eldritch horror. This is the responsible one of the group, and it’s all I can do to keep from saying “GENTLEMEN!” Pack-a-day smokers I’ve heard of, but not pack-at-a-time.
Marco, pack leader, who is the Kebab Hobo about a minute after he’s introduced. He has a kebab stand; he does not have a home. He also has a major chip on his shoulder, and turns into a Vampire. He flies and shreds things; I find his choice of vocation suspiciously fortuitous.
Jill, who is a Spectre in combat and at all other times Marty’s version of an “ice queen.” He describes her as “tsundere”; I describe her as a textbook case of intermittent explosive disorder. She phases through walls, too, which means she’s usually the scout. As far as I know they just follow the screaming.
Lily is the Nightmare, which is a sort of super-Tager with shoulder pimple cannons. I wish I lived in the kind of world where I was kidding. She can also belch a 400-foot beam of utter annihilation once a day. Marty says she’s “kinda genki.” I’m ducking reflexively.
The rest of them are only ever background, really. There are a couple guys who become Phantoms, but they never do anything significant. Phil the Lorekeeper is “basically the most beta guy you could imagine.” He works in the Eldritch Society’s archives doing data retrieval, and apparently doesn’t ever leave. We’d obviously very much like to talk to him; apparently that’s just not done.
Whatever. After introductions, there was really nothing to talk about, so I went for broke and mentioned “something from Nanjing being moved through the city.” Having nothing else to do, we try to strategize.
It doesn’t work. There are no NEG assets in the area – of their own headquarters – and apparently they can’t bring down the truck. Jin’s facepalming over the staggering idiocy, but apparently “they’re in a hole in the defense grid” so we can’t just flag them for the AA guns to take down. We can’t interrupt them anywhere else along the path. We can’t track them. We can’t go down the outside of the arcology; “the air defense grid will pick up on you in seconds”. That’s a mighty specific hole, Marty.
Okay, fine. How about we go to the hangar, fellows? On the way, I ask what weapons we have, and I’m handed a smoke grenade. Darya has the only weapon heavier than a pistol.
It is not what I’d normally think of as a hangar. It’s a box; the far end is joined to the outer wall, and the near end has a little personnel door toward the left. Naturally, there’s a smattering of boxes. There’s a truck parked there near the left wall pointing outside, and two guys slouching by the truck, conveniently watching the gap between the boxes and the door. Oh, but it isn’t just a truck, it’s an air truck; instead of wheels, it has “four articulated A-pods, one on each corner. Otherwise it’s basically a U-Haul truck.” Aerodynamic.
It occurs to me I’m holding a gallon of potent liquor.
Hey, Marty, are there pets in the arcology? There are?
Some splashing later, I’m staggering through the door, hitting the near wall, slurring “here, kitty kitty…thas’ a goo’ kitty, c’mere…” and naturally being immediately noticed by the guards. While I’m belligerently describing my cat “Mishter Mishtoffeleesh” (hey, I’m not good at improv), the party is sneaking.
“Hesh quiet an’ schmall, he ish black/ from hish earsh to the tip of hish tail…”
Thankfully, Marty hasn’t read much T.S. Eliot, and I allow myself to be forcibly removed from the premises without violent incident (apparently the arcology does not, in fact, allow pets without a very rare permit, which led to the immense bonus on their Sense Motive roll); the humans of the party are safely behind the crates, and the Tagers positioned as suits their abilities. I totter off and slump over, waiting.
Four more guys show up, carrying a jet-black box “about a foot square.” They are through the door and then shooting starts.
Darya goes down immediately. Everyone not on our side is a Dhohanoid, and two of them spew paralytic poison needles. She fails her saves in round one, and that’s it for her contribution to the fight. Jin and Ian handily demonstrate that our pistols cannot penetrate their damage resistance, which leaves…sigh…the Tagers.
They are being peppered with poison needles, and they “look like they’re wavering.” Well, at least we have something to do.
Jin and Ian take potshots, and they notice hands rising from the floor to start disemboweling one of the non-spitters; furry things with enormous mouths. Two more of them could fly, because they were giant demon butterfly things; these left their hands alone so they could rain heavy pistol fire on the Phantoms. There is no sign of Marco.
Then I finally get back to the door, and ask if I can drop the smoke grenade so the smoke drifts into the room but is not pushed. It’s an inexact science, I know, but I’m aiming to get the radius of the effect to brush the door, and the winds are favorable. Thus begins the hell of nickel-and-diming that is unorthodoxy. I have the Demolitions skill, but not Military Explosives, so that’s a -5; I haven’t studied the grenade so that’s -2, we’re in combat so -2, and so on and so forth until I’m looking at a -20 penalty. Fine, whatever, drop the thing and hope for the best.
Shrouded, it’s parapsychic time. Illusion, centered on my hand, of a power armor helmet of the type used by Internal Security. Apparently it “stretches” the size limits of a level 1 illusion and adds to the DC, but I barely pass the test to avoid fatigue, leaving me free to shout “OIS! EVERYONE ON THE GROUND NOW!” and lean the helmet out into the doorway.
Marty reflexively points out that “it’s a level 1 illusion; it’s semi-real and indistinct.”
Yes, and in a smoke cloud, what isn’t?
Weirdly, this works. It buys us all of one round of Tagers and Dhohanoids alike looking confusedly at the door, which let us finally confirm the uselessness of pistols. Ian switches to acid bolt spells, damaging one and Jin starts messing with his PDA, but at least the nonhumans can all heal a little. The next round, one of the dart launchers decides to go after me, and the mouthy one grapples Ian to the ground. I also learn that apparently my illusions break on damage; that would have been nice to know earlier.
What followed was essentially static. Darya failed saves against poison, Ian failed against grappling, Jin did his thing in the corner and I danced around avoiding bolts. The Phantoms killed some. At one point, I tried to use my slightly stronger pistol shot to affect things, and learned that offensive powers require “expansive, whole-body movements to direct your energy.” Right. Gun kata time. When your gun is a prop to let you fire psychic bolts by punching the air, faking it, at least, is handy. I even had concealment from the smoke, so the needle guy missed a lot. It did not help.
Then Jill sliced through him, and one of the flyers swooped down to grab the box and escape—at which point Marco drops in from outside and starts with the melee. Yeah, remember that outside route we couldn’t take? Apparently it has some tactical value. Who knew?
By some quirk of fate, Jill julienned my guy right when Jin finished his coding, and we both asked if there was anything we had that could actually damage them. Marty responds with a hearty “nope. These are dhohanoids. They can shrug off pretty much all small-arms fire” and we both get the same idea.
I reached the truck first. I ask what roll it is to hot-wire the air truck. It’s Security. Okay, I have Security…and now it’s Electronics. I have that too, and he gives up and lets me do it. I finish as Jin reaches the seat, and I slide over.
And this is why I liked playing with Jin’s player:
Me: “Can you drive?”
Jin: “Let’s find out.” With this perfect devil-may-care grin.
Marty, of course, objects, saying we can’t leave because we aren’t cleared. How the heck were they going to leave, then? It’s irrelevant; we aren’t going forward. We’re going back and up, hard, aimed at the dragonfly guy with the pistol.
“We squished a bug!” We barely made the damage roll to crush a guy with an airborne U-Haul, but it works…and Marty decides it’s bent the frame, so we can’t stay level and we’re rolling driver’s side up. Jin starts rolling to stabilize it before we decide to roll into it, and I pull out my shillelagh as we start drifting toward Ian and the dhohanoid pinning him down.
Jin: “Come on, say it.”
Me: “I’m not going to say it.”
Jin: “Say itttt…”
Me: sigh “’Drive me closer, I want to hit them with my stick.’”
And there we go; I’m within clubbing range above them.
Marty pipes up to say there’s a flat 50% chance of hitting Ian.
Bear in mind, we’re hovering above the thing spread-eagled over Ian, pinning him to the floor. Still, flat 50%...and naturally I hit Ian. Lily’s cannons apparently have no such limitation, leaving us free to fail a check to stay stable and flip upside-down. One guy left.
Well, backing up worked once… we ask if the truck has a ramp, and it does not. We start trying to figure out how to capture the last one in the truck, but when we drive backward (and upside-down) into the wall, somehow the last Dhohanoid is squished.
That done, we run like hell – and the Tagers take the box, unopened. We agree to meet at the bar again the next day, and we get a nice long description of how they melt “perfectly” in the crowd. The session ended with us returning to our apartments, me having been offered the spare half of Ian’s suite.
Yes, we took out more dhohanoids than any one Tager. Marty was ticked.