Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SABRE, Issue #2: Books and Beat Downs

[This session happened February 27, 2016, and is the second session with the newly revitalized superhero group SABRE.]

Mars – super-powered ex-professional wrestler
Mnemesys – teleporting martial artist with no official name, yet
Black Light – light manipulator with withering attacks
The Terrapin Avenger –model and spokesman for TURTLE Armor™ line of battlesuit products
Sentinel – combat armor-wearing inventor
The White Shade – mentalist with a Pulp style
Aces – the team’s “Sorcerer Superb”

Max Powers – President and CEO of FutureTech Systems and sponsor of SABRE
Chance Morway – PR representative for SABRE
Detective Alana Petrey – Detective in the CCPD Metahuman Crimes Division

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012, Capitol City
A few days earlier, The White Shade received an invitation to the memorial service for The Star-Spangled Singer, the first victim in the Cape-KRAKEN War two years ago.  A life-sized statue would be dedicated at the ceremony on the 20th.  The White Shade agreed to be there and since then calls from the press for her started coming in.  Most of the calls focused on her previous relationship with the martyred hero Victory Eagle and whether or not White Shade was dating again.  Secretly knowing that Victory Eagle’s death was not as heroic as everyone else believes, White Shade found she really could not deal with these kinds of questions.  She asked the team’s PR representative, Chance Morway, to field the calls for her.  As the invites included a “+1”, White Shade started giving thought to who she might invite that wouldn’t immediately start insinuating questions from the press.

As a result of the video footage of the team’s fight with the Pistolero Brothers (see Issue #1 for the exciting details! –ed.), DanCo., The Terrapin Avenger’s sponsor, insisted on a mandatory upgrade to the defensive capabilities of the TURTLE Armor the Avenger wears.  They sent the Avenger’s personal field technician, Stan Volkov, to deliver the upgrade that morning and to run a system diagnostic test on the suit.  This test took up the rest of the 17th.  The Terrapin Avenger and Stan spent most of the day discussing what new weapon and defensive options were being worked on back in R&D and which might benefit the Terrapin Avenger most.

Sentinel had a morning meeting with Agent Rick Dicker, his liaison with the US Marshals Service.  Agent Dicker asked that Sentinel be a little more careful about invoking the US Marshals Service when working as a member of SABRE.  While Sentinel is still a deputy US Marshal, no one else on SABRE is and sometimes local law enforcement gets territorial about cases.  Agent Dicker also praised Sentinel for the team’s quick work taking down the Pistolero Brothers the previous week, pointing out that the Pistolero’s themselves had arranged for the traffic copters to be right there.  Instead of getting evidence they are “the real deal”, they provided all the evidence necessary to convict them for the armored car robbery.

In the afternoon, Mnemesys received a call from Nancy Nicholson at the DA’s office.  She told him that all of the evidence from the Howard Payne case had disappeared from the evidence locker a couple of days ago.  Worse, Payne’s lawyers seemed to be aware of it as they asked to see some of it.  When the evidence could not be produced, they immediately filed a motion to have the case dismissed.  The DA had to let it go as now the only evidence against Payne is Mnemesys’ testimony and a teleporting superhero with a bomb disposal history as the only witness would make it way too easy for the defense to instill a reasonable doubt in any jury.  The Capitol City PD Internal Affairs Department is aggressively looking into the disappearance.

Mnemesys decided to go over to the City Jail to pay Payne a visit before the mercenary bomber was let free, but Payne refused to see him.  Mnemesys decided to spend the next several days dropping in so Payne would know Mnemesys was watching.  [It wasn’t creepy or anything at all.]

Mars received notice that a WWE Smackdown event would be happening at the Rayes Aerobank Arena in Capitol City on the 20th and the WWE wanted Mars to do some interviews and color commentary at the event.  Mars readily agreed (being an ex-WWE member) and started working out the schedule for the pre-event interviews.  The WWE provided Mars with a number of tickets and VIP passes for the event, enough that Mars “and his team” could view the event from a box seating suite.  Later in the day, White Shade asked Mars if he would attend the memorial service for the Star-Spangled Singer with her on the 20th.  A quick comparison of schedules showed that both could attend the memorial service that morning and get back to Capitol City in time for the promotional work for the Smackdown that night.  Mars agreed and White Shade was relieved to have a safe “+1” to take to the service.

In her secret ID as Julie Burton, Black Light was setting up her next experiment at the Luneburg Optics Building on the University of Southern Maryland Main Campus in Capitol City.  This experiment was a preparatory experiment for her primary investigation into using light waves for epigenetic manipulation of cancer cells in order to force the body to correctly identify cancer cells as foreign bodies in need of destruction.  Set up for the experiment would take several days, even with the small team of grad students at her disposal.

Aces, in his secret ID as Professor William “Bill” Watson, was contacted by a colleague from Germany, Professor Maximillian Bates of Bielefeld University.  Professor Bates had an 8th century codex on Saxon pagan practices that he needed authenticated before he could get funding for a restoration and would Professor Wilson be available tomorrow to look at the codex?  Not having anything pressing on his schedule, Aces agreed to Professor Bates’ request and they agreed to meet at 9:00 AM the next day (the 18th).

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012, Capitol City, University District, 9:00 AM
Professor Bates arrived at the office of Professor Wilson (Aces) at precisely 9:00 AM, announcing himself with a firm knock on the door.  Professor Wilson’s office is on the Ground floor of the History Building on the University of Southern Maryland Main Campus.  Due to the hilly nature of the terrain, this floor is below ground on the east end of the building, where the main entrance is, but at ground level on the west end.

After an initial greeting, Professor Bates pulled the codex he wished Professor Wilson to authenticate out of a satchel.  It was in a hard-shelled carrying container, which the professor opened.  Inside, wrapped in protective plastic was the codex.  While unwrapping the codex, Professor Bates explained that the codex was found in a private book collection that was recently donated to Bielefeld University.  The inventory indicated a few stone figurines belonged with the codex, and Professor Bates had those with him as well.  The codex appeared to be a previously unknown compilation of letters by Alcuin (a preeminent 8th century scholar in the court of Charlemagne).

Just as Professor Wilson was finally getting a chance to look at the codex, he heard the door to his office quietly open and someone attempting to be quiet enter the office.  Pretending to not notice, Professor Wilson (with gloved hands) picked up the codex and turned in his chair so he could see the door out of the corner of his eye.  Three men were standing there, two in black and one in brown, one of the ones in black was quietly closing the door.  The man in brown, who also had red hair with a single white streak, spoke with a slight German accent, saying “Good morning, professors.  I will be taking the codex from you now.  We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but the hard way involves the two of you learning if the American health system is as good as its reputation.”  He smiled at his own witticism.

Professor Wilson carefully turned back to his desk to set the codex back down in the plastic wrapping.  While doing so, he covertly triggered the SABRE communicator in his jacket pocket, knowing the signal was monitored back at SABRE Tower.  Maybe he could stall long enough for someone on the team to arrive…

Back at SABRE Tower, the PA system chimed and all members of SABRE in the building were requested to go to the Communications Center, a message that repeated twice more.  Inside the Tower were White Shade, Terrapin Avenger, Mnemesys, and Sentinel (who was doing maintenance on his armor suit).  White Shade, Terrapin Avenger, and Mnemesys went to the Communications Center while Sentinel used the intercom to listen in while reassembling his armor.

The Tech on duty explained he was receiving signal from Aces’ communicator and was hearing a threatening conversation.  White Shade asked for him to play it on the speakers and the team heard a German voice saying, “Thank you for accepting the easy way as I have doubts about the efficiency of the American health system.  Take the codex.”  White Shade asked the tech where Aces’ communicator was and the tech pointed to a map of the city on a monitor with a flashing light at the University of Southern Maryland.  Tapping a couple of buttons zoomed in the map to show just the university campus, with the blinking light in the History Building.

After a quick consultation with Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger, White Shade issued orders, Mnemesys would teleport her and Terrapin Avenger to the University, Sentinel would follow as soon as he and his suit were ready, and the Duty Technician would contact Black Light and Mars to alert them to the situation.  Mnemesys, Terrapin Avenger, and White Shade then headed to the roof so Mnemesys could see the university to teleport them there.

Meanwhile, one of the German thugs wrapped the codex back into the plastic and retrieved it from the two professors.  During the scene Professor Bates whispered to Professor Wilson that he knew someone was following him but not who, which was why he came to the States.  Professor Bates was not able to elaborate on that confession before the thugs moved too close to whisper safely.  Once the thugs had the codex they left quietly, without harming either professor.  After giving them a 30-count to leave, Professor Wilson moved to the door and peeked outside – no sight of the thugs.  He told Professor Bates they should split up so they wouldn’t both be caught in case they ran into the thugs again.  He directed Professor east, telling him more students would be that way and should negate any potential violence.  Once Professor Bates was out of sight, Professor Wilson ducked back into his office, said Three Words of Power, and transformed into Aces.

Aces attempted to teleport to the main entrance of the History Building so he could capture the thugs before they got too far.  His teleportation spell failed.  Completely failed.  He tried it again and got nothing.  This started freaking Aces out – he thought his powers had no limits but his imagination!

After a couple of teleport hops, Mnemesys, White Shade and the Terrapin Avenger arrived at the front entrance to the History Building.  Classes were in session, so there were very few students wandering the campus at that moment.  The trio looked around for Professor Wilson’s office (Aces had finally gotten on the communicator and blurted out bad guys had stolen a book from Professor Wilson).  Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger noticed a directory just inside the front doors and the trio moved in.  Mnemesys also noticed a rune written in ink beside the door, but didn’t give it immediate thought, having no context to put it in.  Inside, while Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger were looking at the directory, White Shade noticed a man in black clothes step around a corner, notice the heroes, and then immediately turn back, waving off someone back around the corner.  White Shade threw a mental entangle at the person and alerted her compatriots.

Several miles away, Mars was giving a promotional interview for the WWE when a female voice called out, “Hey, Mars! Heads up!”  Mars was then slammed by a Cacophonic Blast from Katerwaller, a female villain from his rogues gallery.  While Mars is very strong and has the bone structure to support that strength, he is vulnerable to sound-based attacks, like everything in Katerwaller’s arsenal.  Additionally, Mars will not strike a woman, a hold-over from his upbringing.  Recognizing what kind of trouble he was in, Mars immediately put in a call for help over his SABRE communicator.

Sentinel, finally in his armor, knew that Mars almost never calls for help, so if he was, Mars really needed it.  He acknowledged Mars’ request and informed the rest of the team that he was going to the arena instead of the university.

Back at the university, Mnemesys attempted to teleport to the hallway corner so he could see what was going on there and couldn’t teleport.  This surprised him but did not stop him, so he ran to the corner instead.  Around the corner was the man White Shade has paralyzed.  Way down the hallway, running towards the doors at the far end, was another man in black and a red-headed man in brown.  Terrapin Avenger stepped around the corner and fired an Expanding Plasti-web ™ from his Ballistic Polymer Multigun ™.  This wrapped the two fleeing individuals in quick-hardening polymer strands that hardened immediately.

The man White Shade paralyzed broke free of the mental entangle, but was knocked unconscious by Terrapin Avenger.  Mnemesys, suddenly linking the rune outside the door with his inability to teleport went back outside and used a rag to erase the rune.

Inside, the red-headed man suddenly broke free of the polymer bonds, catching Terrapin Avenger and White Shade by surprise.  He ran to the far door with White Shade flying in pursuit and alerting Mnemesys to the issue.  Mnemesys teleported to the far end of the building, finding the red-headed man just outside the History building.  Mnemesys ordered the man to surrender.  Instead the man pulled a bronze wand from inside his coat and fired a lightning bolt at Mnemesys.  Mnemesys performed a passing teleporting throw on the man, dropping him back inside the History Building.  Terrapin avenger, down at the far end of the hallway popped another shot into the red-headed man to keep him down.  [This was a bit excessive.]  Aces finally showed up once the fight was over, just in time for campus security to also show up and try to arrest everyone.

Back over at the arena, Mars and Sentinel knocked out Katerwaller, but Mars took more than he gave in the fight, with several broken bones and swaths of disrupted tissue.  Aces was called for and a quick teleport later was using healing magic to repair the damage to Mars’ body.

White Shade worked with the police once the Metahuman Crimes Division arrived.  White Shade and Detective Petrey, the head of the MCD, collected statements and both noticed that the statements from Aces and Professor Wilson (once he finally showed up) did not match up very well.  They also reviewed video tape, discovering that there had been two more men in black suits in the building and they had kidnapped Professor Bates while the fight had been happening in the building.

End of Session

[After the game, we discussed how things went.  The players were pleased with the story and how things played out.  I was very pleased with the overall level of role play and specifically by Mars, Aces, and White Shade.  Both Aces and White Shade have their own reasons to be a bit paranoid, each having secrets to hide.  Mars faced an adversary he was particularly vulnerable to and responded appropriately.]

[In future games, I think I’m going to require any power with the Mega Scale advantage also have the Additional Time disadvantage with a minimum additional time of 1 minute.  Mega Scale teleport (Mnemesys and Aces) and Mega Scale Flight (Sentinel) means that the heroes arrive at any scene almost as soon as they are aware of it.  This causes problems with certain types of story elements and tropes and is vaguely dissatisfying to me as the GM.  Plus, it tends to lead to “hurry up and tell my character where the action is so I can get in on it” activities, which complicates scenes and nullifies what may have been a spotlight scene for the character who found the action.  The opposite (the characters can never get to a crime scene before the villains are long gone) is also no good.  I’ll have to experiment some more and have the villains adjust to what the heroes can do.]

[Also, Katerwaller can create a wall of pure sound, hence her name.  She was designed specifically to be an occasional foil for Mars without having to roll out something that would crush the rest of the heroes.  That’s still coming.  ;) ]

Issue #1

Issue #2, Act 2

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