Chapter 0 – Dramatis Personae
May 25, 1934, 20:09, Chicago
We are pulling in to Chicago now on the fastest train on which I’ve ever traveled, the Zephyr. We left Denver this morning at 7:04 AM and have arrived slightly over 13 hours later! A day-and-a-half to two-day trip shortened to one day – very impressive. Additionally, according to the reporters onboard, we arrived nearly two hours earlier than expected!
I was originally put off by riding on a promotional run from Denver to Chicago, but the timing was good due to our late start back in San Francisco. The train is impressive and extremely clean, this being its first public run, traveling from one end of the CB&Q lines to the other. It was much more comfortable than any of the air transports we would have flown on and faster as well. I even had time and quiet to catch up on my correspondence.
We should arrive at the Ambassador East Hotel in time for a late dinner at The Pump Room, the in-house restaurant. Helen and Simone seem eager to see Chicago’s nightlife, but I am more concerned with how Adventure Earth has arranged our rooms at the hotel so I can avoid rooming with Kurt and his snoring.
22:28, Ambassador East Hotel
Mixed news – we each have our own room at The Ambassador, but Miss Decker has made this a working vacation. Envelopes were awaiting each member of the team at the hotel (although Helen received a second letter as well – apparently personal in nature). Over the next three days we are to attend the World’s Fair and hand out company flyers to prospective clients for the company’s services. Miss Decker has decided to make the request Jack, Kurt, and I made for access to the Fair as part of our vacation into a promotional effort for the Adventure Earth Company. I cannot really fault her for this nor complain – employment with the company has directly benefitted me and my family plus brought me into contact with the love of my life. The least I can do is promote the company when they are enabling our hunt for Mr. George Parks.
Speaking of whom, the hotel has copies of the official guide book for the fair in the lobby and I secured one. Looking through it, there are two entries I feel compelled to follow: the Temple of Solomon and the Solomon Industries presentation. Mr. Parks made off with Ring of the Djinn, the Seal of Solomon, and the Key of Solomon from the tomb of Emperor Menelik, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. With no less than two Solomon references here at the fair on top of Menelik’s actual sarcophagus on display, I feel certain we will meet Mr. Parks again and this time he will not escape us.
May 26, 1934, 8:14 AM, Ambassador East Hotel
The team discussed our plans over breakfast. We all agreed that the first thing we should do is present ourselves at the Adventure Earth Company Pyramid (the company pavilion at the fair) and meet with Miss Decker. The last telegraph I have from her indicates we are to discuss the team’s standing with the company and I very much want to discuss whether or not delivering Mr. Parks (albeit trussed up by Kurt) will repair our reputation and standing within the company or merely seal it.
I attempted to suggest the team plan on meeting again at 3:00 PM, but Helen indicated she has a personal meeting at 2:00 PM and is taking Simone with her to it. When I asked for an alternate time, Helen stated she was not certain how long her meeting would take and so she could not commit to a specific time. I am very curious and puzzled by this, but Helen does not seem willing to share what this personal matter is and I must respect her privacy. If it becomes something I or the rest of the team might help with, I trust she will ask.
9:28 AM, Lobby of the AEC Pyramid
Our meeting with Miss Decker was brief, but not perfunctory, which is good. We took separate paths to get to the meeting and Kurt never arrived. I entered through the 23rd Street entrance, but missed the exhibitor’s side entrance, so I was delayed by the crowds pressing in through the entrance. Girls were handing out commemorative stamped pennies on chain necklaces to everyone entering, which explained the turgid entry. I was afraid of being the last to arrive, but the others rode the Sky Car across the park, which delayed them enough that we arrived mostly together, minus Kurt.
I will admit that I did not miss Kurt until Miss Decker explained we would all be representing Adventure Earth Company while attending the fair and should be on our best behavior as a result. Once those words left her mouth, I immediately looked for Kurt to see if he had been drinking and discovered he was missing. Miss Decker rather unfairly ribbed me for losing another person, but I wisely avoided rising to the bait. When I asked Miss Decker if there was any value to bringing in Mr. Parks, she said the company could use the good press of recovering one of the three clients lost over the last year, so please do so if the possibility exists. This also means we have to do so in a way that will not reflect badly on the company once the press finds out, so I have to remember to tell Kurt we want Mr. Parks alive and with no obvious injuries. He will be most disappointed.
11:02 AM, Hall of Science
Jack, Riley, and I went into the Temple of Solomon exhibit, which is directly adjacent to the AEC pyramid. (Helen and Simone went off together and Bak Mu headed towards Soldier Field, perhaps to locate Kurt.) Inside the temple, the lecturer was just starting a tour, so I tagged along. As things progressed, it became clear he has a very strong knowledge of Biblical Scholarship, but his actual historical knowledge was lacking. I politely corrected some of his lecture based on my own experiences in the Middle East, doing my best to add to his lecture, not weaken it. After the lecture we fell to talking and I ended up staying longer than planned.
Jack took the time to look around the exhibit more thoroughly than normally allowed (he looked behind the displays and such) and reported back nothing we were looking for was here. Mr. Stein asked what we were looking for and I admitted the sarcophagus of Solomon display. He informed us it was in the Hall of Religion, which has better security than the Midway, where the Temple of Solomon display was located. We exchanged contact information and he invited me to “break in on” his lectures any time.
Our plan from there was to pass through the Hall of Science, letting Riley investigate that location, while Jack and I made our way to the Hall of Religion. That plan was delayed once we walked into the courtyard in front of the Hall of Science – there was a giant robot standing in the center of the courtyard, painted Army green.
The robot was obviously modeled on the one we fought in Svartalfheim (see Halls of the Mountain Kings for details). Jack and I stopped in our tracks and started commenting on it. Riley quickly realized we had seen one of these before and asked questions about it. I answered his questions (mostly) however I wasn’t really paying attention to him but to the robot. It was taller than the Iron Man of Svartalfheim and the head was different in shape and had a thick bundle of cables emerging from it that went over to a gas generator and control panel carried by an Army specialist standing to the side. The three of us went over and talked to the young soldier. After I accidentally indicated I knew more about the robot design than the engineer assigned to operate it, he and Riley fell to talking about it. This was a prototype and wasn’t completely finished, hence the control panel and separate generator.
The Army fellow is now running the next demonstration for the crowd and Riley is watching how he controls it. Part of me is very worried that this might be necessary knowledge. That said, I’d rather not steal property of the United States Army from the center of the World’s Fair – I’m certain Miss Decker would very much consider that reason for termination of our employment contracts.
11:28 AM, Outside the Hall of Science
After the demonstration, we went into the Hall of Science (with Riley demanding he and I discuss the robot in detail this evening). Just before we were to take our leave of Riley, Jack and I spotted a workman with a tattoo of the Black Sun on his arm step into a service door between two exhibits. A Schattenkreis agent in the Hall of Science while a robot based on their stolen plans was on display outside the Hall was too much of a coincidence. After a short discussion we went in pursuit, Riley tagging along behind us.
The door led to a service corridor behind the exhibit displays. There were many people wearing the service uniform of the Fair going to and fro, but Jack and I spotted our quarry exit an exterior door down to the left. We moved in pursuit, but were stopped by a service manager asking why we were there. We explained we were AEC employees looking for the Solomon exhibit and were a bit lost – with all the witnesses, what more could we do? He escorted us over to a wall map and took the time to explain how we could get to the Hall of Religion from there. We thanked him and then exited the building through the door the Schattenkreis agent had exited.
This door led to a service bay for unloading…whatever needed to be unloaded. We could no longer see the agent. We could see a service truck slowly leaving the area, heading towards the Midway. Jack has left to give chase while Riley and I wait here in case the agent merely ducked aside. I’ve lost sight of Jack and the truck in the crowds.
UPDATE: Jack lost the truck in the Midway area. We have no trail to follow, so we have to revert to our original plan. This event is still ominous.
2:07 PM, Lagoon Theatre
We (Jack, Kurt, Bak Mu, Riley, and I) are sitting at a table in the Lagoon Theatre, waiting for the Solomon Company presentation to begin, so I’m updating my journal while I wait. Kurt, of course, is drinking the free beer. I’m pretending I didn’t notice Bak Mu pass his own beer coin to Kurt.
Our trip inside the Hall of Religion was somewhat chaotic due to the large crowds inside. Lacking any signage indicating where the Solomon exhibit could be found, I had Riley give me a lift so I could see over the crowd. There seemed to be a larger crowd in one direction and, deciding that the “actual” sarcophagus of King Solomon would be a big draw, we headed in that direction.
The crowd turned out to be for the Hall of Wonders inside the Hall of Religion. A sign outside listing the “wonders” inside included the Tomb of Solomon. There was a large crowd around a display in the entrance to the Hall of Wonders, so I worked my way in to see what was drawing the crowd. I had feared it was the sarcophagus lid with the Key of Solomon ur language displayed, but my fears were unfounded – it was just the Antioch Chalice being touted as the Holy Grail. Having recently held the chalice the myths are based on in my own hands a little over a month ago [see Big Trouble in San Francisco], I was overly, and verbally, dismissive of the Antioch Chalice, which drew the attention of a member of the crowd. He started asking questions and I…I slipped into professor mode and started answering his questions (I kept to “official” history, avoiding any mention of the secret history I’ve learned while working for Adventure Earth). Riley herded me along, but the man kept up and asked me what I knew about the displays as we went past them and I kept answering him. (I skipped the part where we planted the Crystal Skull in the Mayan ruins in British Honduras. Miss Mitchell-Hedges still does not know that her father paid us to plant it for her to find and she will not learn it from me, even indirectly.)
Once we arrived at the “Tomb of Solomon”, I will say I was impressed. The Adventure Earth Company had created a very believable facsimile of the actual tomb, right down to the hieroglyphs on the pedestal. The English translations were well done, but noticeably omitted that this was actually the tomb of Menelik, Solomon’s son by the Queen of Sheba, and not Solomon himself. Showmanship at its finest. To my eternal thanks, the sarcophagus lid was closed on the sarcophagus, the secret language hidden away.
The hanger-on from the Antioch Chalice was still with us and asking about the tomb, so I resumed answering his questions, which drew the attention of others in the crowd and I spent the better part of an hour and a half lecturing and answering questions. During this time I occasionally noticed Jack taking pictures with a camera. He’d been there when we discovered the tomb, so I knew he wasn’t taking pictures of the exhibit. I eventually realized he was taking pictures of the people in the exhibit (which he later confirmed).
Eventually Riley, who had been paying attention to the time, herded me out of the Hall so we could make the Solomon Company demonstration. When we arrived at the Lagoon Theatre there was already a long line. We spotted Helen and Simone at the head of the line (they do tend to stand out). The fact that they were at the head of the line was not surprising at all, but that Helen’s personal meeting was here was surprising.
Just inside the doors, those entering were given beer coins to redeem at the bar for the promised free beer. Attendees were also asked if they wanted to join a mailing list to be kept up to date on the Solomon project, which is a building project in Arizona. I choose not to give my name and address, but Kurt and Bak Mu did, so I should be able to keep up to date through them if it becomes necessary.
Speaking of Kurt, he arrived mostly on time and only slightly inebriated. Apparently he roped himself into signing up for events at the rodeo – I mean “the ranch and farm exhibition” – after discovering his rival was already signed up for them. Said rival then offered to buy lunch and drinks at the lunch break, probably knowing Kurt’s weakness to alcohol. I’m not surprised that Kurt was distracted by this and am pleased it wasn’t just the opportunity to drink, but I’m still disappointed he failed to show at the meeting with Miss Decker.
The presentation is starting. More later.
2:30 PM, Lagoon Theatre
Well, that was…interesting? The Solomon Company is building a very tall building with residences, stores, offices, and other necessities like gardens inside of it. The speaker, introduced as the Voice of Solomon, made numerous Biblical Tower of Babel references in his speech – a suspicious number of them. To say the building is oddly shaped is an understatement – it is very tall and thin, built on the edge of a canyon, has a twist to it so the top is 45° off-set from the base, and the top is a tall, pointed pyramid with slightly concave surfaces. Riley says there are so many things wrong with it as a building he doesn’t know where to start. This leads me to think that maybe it isn’t a building but something else. Kurt asked Riley if it could be spun and launched like a bullet, paralleling my own thinking. Riley is still flabbergasted from the question. I’m glad Kurt asked it.
There is a commotion outside – we’re going to investigate.
[The game session did not end at this point, but it also did not end at a point where Andrew could make another journal entry. Therefore, the following happened, but Andrew won’t get a chance to actually write it down until sometime next session.]
The commotion outside was people screaming over by the Hall of Religion – screaming loud enough that we could hear them while inside a building over 2000 feet away. Many people were milling about, so I climbed a lamp post to get a better view, looking towards the Hall of Science. I was very concerned the Schattenkreis were stealing the Army robot, but from my new vantage point I could see the robot where it belonged and immobile.
Looking elsewhere, I could just see people in motion near the Hall of Religion, apparently fleeing the building. As a group, we all started heading towards the Hall of Religion, Helen and Simone joining us again. Kurt stole a bicycle and headed on with the rest of us following as best we could.
Once we cleared the Hall of Science we started facing people running in the opposite direction, away from the Hall of Religion. The crowd was sticking to the promenade, so I circled to the left and ran along the edge of the South Lagoon, behind the exhibition buildings lining the lagoon. This provided me with an excellent view of a storm materializing over Lake Michigan. Not forming – materializing.
Then things got worse.
A giant copper-colored robot surfaced from the lake, directly under the storm. It was nearly identical to the Iron Man of Svartalfheim, but larger, marking it as a new collaboration between the Dark Elves and the Schattenkreis. And this time operating on US soil – this would not stand! Also, the reports in the papers of missing cobalt beryllium copper and other exotic metals now made sense.
I had stopped running at this point, between the Christian Science Monitor building and the South Lagoon shore when Kurt rode back up. His words were, “The Cat says we have to break the star and the lamps because the pointy-eared varmints are up to it again.”
By “The Cat” he meant Long Ears, the horse-sized black cat that assisted us in defeating the Dark Elves (who he was referring to when he said “pointy-eared varmints”) back in Svartalfheim. I knew what he meant when he said the star – the Fair had touted the Arcturus Beacon, lit by the star itself and shaped like a star, sitting on top one of the support tower of the Sky Car. I didn’t understand “the lamps” so I asked and he indicated decorative lamps of a particular style that were scattered all across the acres of fairgrounds. I asked how many we had to destroy and he said “As many as we can.” I don’t doubt it needs to be done, but it looking like random vandalism afterward concerns me.
Masks are going to be a necessity.
End of Session
[I'll have discussion of which dates were modified in-game for story purposes in a later post. UPDATE: Hasn't happened yet.]