Friday, September 18, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 19

We were able to squeeze a little bit of action in with our drama this time. I had honestly expected to finish the adventure (or get very close) during this session, but we were having too much fun chewing scenery to let that happen. I'm certainly not complaining. This campaign's cast of characters has swollen considerably during my stint in the GM chair; I may need to write some sort of guide explaining who everyone is if I expect readers to be able to follow what's going on.

The Solutions @ Gun Pointe Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)

Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Kat, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent

Arisis, Kat, Max, and Nahar race after the alien war criminal Sorventh, who is fleeing from them in the giant Destroid Monster mecha, also known as "the Mac". Valerie follows close behind, carrying the mecha's rightful owners, Reez and Mian. Though the Mac is not a fast-moving vehicle, it is extremely heavily armed, and blasts away at its pursuers with abandon, starting with the largest target: the giant-sized Arisis. Arisis grits her teeth and soaks up a full-powered laser blast from the Mac's arm cannons, the impact of which sends shrapnel of ice and rock flying, striking her comrades. When the smoke clears, however, Arisis is bloodied, but still standing. With Arisis having taken the hit for the team, Nahar and Kat leap onto the legs of the Monster and, after conferring with its owner, Reez, via radio, Kat is able to punch in override codes to first open the mecha's crew hatch, then disable it entirely. The hatch drops open, and a ladder-like ramp automatically swings down to the planet's surface.

A brief standoff ensues, during which Valerie catches up with her friends. S@GP train their weapons on the open hatch, and Arisis commands Sorventh and his lackeys to stand down. The latter, at least, acknowledge her authority: the half-dozen miscreants that were assisting the draconid soon descend the ladder with hands raised, but Sorventh himself seems intractable. Max casts a stunning spell on the alien mage's minions, and Mian and Reez hurriedly set about handcuffing them. Kat suddenly senses magic in use inside the mecha, and jumps her way up the ramp, knocking two of Sorventh's men off of it in the process. She reaches the cockpit just in time to see Sorventh shimmer and vanish. Teleportation spells are no match for the psi-stalker's enhanced senses, however, and Kat directs Fay -- who had been guarding Reez and Mian's spacecraft in her Horizont dropship -- to pick her up. Sorventh teleports across the surface of Nong 6 several more times, but to no avail: Kat's ability to sense magic keeps him in range. Before long, the draconid war criminal is captured, and his reserves of magical energy are drained after Kat gives him a nasty bite. Evidently, psi-stalkers are nonexistent in the Three Galaxies, as Sorventh is completely flabbergasted by the ease with which he has been incapacitated.

Mian and Reez finish restraining Sorventh and his men, and Max raises an uncomfortable topic: the fact that S@GP needs their friends to hand Sorventh over to them. He suggests that Valerie, as S@GP's headhunter and one of the main negotiators of the agreement with Bastille Impenetrable, explain the situation. Valerie -- who is still reeling from being victimized by two shapeshifters wearing the faces of Mian and Reez -- is reluctant to do so, which prompts Max to take her aside for a tense discussion about keeping one's head in the game. Arisis and Kat take over for them, with the titan also detailing how Tetka and Yeshka infiltrated the group (and insinuated their way into Valerie and Arisis' confidence, in particular). Mian and Reez are bewildered and disturbed, but acknowledge that without S@GP's help, they would have been stranded or killed by Sorventh, and agree to let them take the war criminal in. They also inform the team that they did not knowingly encounter Tetka, her dragon companion, or any other Hard Repo personnel, and extend their sympathies. Valerie, her feelings somewhat soothed, offers Mian and Reez the bounties on Sorventh's associates as small compensation, which they accept. Valerie and Reez share a hug, mecha and captives are loaded up, and both parties leave Nong 6 in their respective spacecraft.

Seconds after Fay's ship leaves Nong 6's atmosphere, an urgent hyperspace communication request pops up on the viewscreen. A frantic Karen Cray says "I've been trying to reach you -- you guys are in trouble!" Before she can explain further, the communication channel is shut off, and a vast space battleship with a baroque chimera motif at its prow surges out of hyperspace. The Horizont's power is immediately cut from an outside source, and the battleship engages twin tractor beams, paralyzing Mian and Reez' craft and drawing Fay's dropship inexorably into a port carved to resemble a roaring lion's maw. Arisis grimly informs her comrades that they have been intercepted by the Xanthus, the flagship of the Othrys Totality -- the empire of her people, the titans.

The Horizont is guided down a seemingly interminable shaft and into a massive hangar, in which columns of armored titan warriors -- numbering in the hundreds -- are assembled, alongside soldiers of the various "servitor races" conquered by the Othrys Totality. At the head of the throng is an imperious-looking woman wearing the vestments of a priestess, flanked by a dozen elite guards: this is Maia, the eldest of Arisis' sisters, the Pleiades. Nearby stands no less than mighty Anhur, the Egyptian god of war; a powerfully-built giant of a man with the head of a lion. Fay mutters that she knew this was coming.

Maia's voice rings out in the ornate chamber, welcoming home her wayward sister and her friends, and inviting them to step forth from the spacecraft and disarm themselves. There is a moment of hesitation as S@GP look to Arisis for guidance, but she advises her compatriots to do as they are told. Nevertheless, Kat activates her BAKENEKO drone and engages its chameleon cloaking system. Arisis then strides down the ramp with Max, Kat, and Valerie at her side. Fay emerges from the Horizont as well, but Nahar pauses roughly halfway down the Horizont's exit ramp, and Kat surreptitiously directs her drone to do the same -- a smart move, since Maia seems as though she may have spotted it.

Arisis' sister continues to spout insincere platitudes as the elite titan guards step forward to divest Solutions @ Gun Pointe of their weaponry. Valerie makes a calculated effort to showcase her physical assets as she steps out of her armor (invoking Unforgettably Gorgeous), providing enough distraction to allow Kat to carefully inch her cat-drone out of the Horizont and slip its control module to Valerie (which she conceals inside one of her bionic arms). Meanwhile, Fay reluctantly approaches Anhur. "You have been unruly, and unwise," he chides, wordlessly questioning what possessed the wayward demigoddess to use her cursed gaze power and thus alert her mother, the witch-goddess Amon, to her location. After acknowledging Arisis as a fellow warrior, Anhur tells Fay to return to the ship. "We will be returning to Earth with the ogress," he says, and Nahar decides not to argue this point. Nahar vows to Valerie that she will ensure that Sorventh is delivered to Bastille Impenetrable, and tells her to make sure Max stays in one piece (a sentiment which catches the young mystic by surprise). Fay asks S@GP not to worry, saying she'll catch up with them later. Then, the Egyptian deities and Nahar board the Horizont and depart.


Maia raises her arms in a falsely affectionate greeting, and Arisis steps forward to embrace her with barely-veiled menace, delivering a forceful "kiss of death" to her elder sister's cheeks and forehead. As the titans file past Maia with S@GP's gear, the group sees that two guards that were previously in the rear of the formation have stepped forward. Both are wearing suits of ride armor -- one red, one purple -- that is similar in design to Valerie's Saber Cyclone, yet markedly different, even alien, in appearance. Something deep in Valerie's Praxian psyche reacts to their presence with frenzied hostility, and she suddenly lunges at one of them, hanging onto its armored breastplate and screaming "What are you?!" The purple-armored warrior that Valerie pounced upon is staggered, but the red one still stands at attention. Arisis attempts to restrain Valerie, but the headhunter wriggles free. Max acts decisively but imperceptibly, silently striking Valerie down with his "evil eye" ability. He eases Valerie's fall as she crumples, temporarily paralyzed, to the floor. Snickers of derision echo softly in the great chamber until Arisis commands them to be silent -- an order that is immediately followed despite her outlaw status.

(Several years ago, partially due to the influence of the sentient Sword of Baragor, Arisis turned against the malevolent Totality. With the aid of certain titans loyal to her, and along with her twin brother Rhaphis, Arisis escaped to Earth, where she became a cyber-knight. Rhaphis, however, took a darker path.) 

Maia informs Arisis that she is to be put on trial by combat for betraying her people, with the rest of S@GP likewise tried as her associates. Until then, Maia offers to lodge Arisis in the luxury that is the birthright of the Pleiades, but Arisis elects to remain with her comrades, and picks up the stunned Valerie. With that, Solutions @ Gun Pointe are taken to the Xanthus' brig, and the assemblage of soldiers slowly files out behind them... leaving Kat's still-camouflaged drone virtually alone in the flagship's immense hangar-chamber.

The brig turns out to be more like a dungeon -- an immense, crypt-like enclosure where those the titans would prefer to forget about are thrown together. Obviously constructed without consideration for species that lack nightvision, the dungeon is kept in near-total darkness. Max conjures a globe of daylight, and a voice familiar to Arisis calls out for "the Champions of Light!" Soon, she has another terse reunion with one of her siblings: her twin brother, Rhaphis, who is somewhat the worse for wear. He is accompanied by a few henchmen who appear to be Africans, which is consistent with the circumstances in which S@GP last encountered him: taking advantage of the discord on that continent during the scourge of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Rhaphis seems amused that his sister has ended up here, and correctly surmises that a trial by combat must be at hand. It turns out that roughly a dozen other turncoat titans -- some of whom were among those that helped the twins escape the Totality several years past -- are ready and willing to attempt an escape from the Xanthus, which Rhaphis advises his sister to seriously consider. Arisis, however, is dubious. 

Not long after, the door to the brig opens again, and Maia enters, accompanied by several guards, two of whom are the ride-armored individuals who earlier caused Valerie to lose control. Maia asks Arisis to accompany her, and the titan sisters exit, leaving the armored warriors behind. "This is pointless, Relos," says the one in red, to the purple-armored warrior. Valerie, spoiling for a fight, unsheathes vibro-blades from her bionic arms, and the red-armored one extends a pair of wickedly curved, pincer-like claws in response. Relos asks the warrior in the red armor, apparently named "Jendra", to stand down. Relos removes her helmet, revealing a face that Valerie instantly recognizes: that of her late mother, Atheia, which she has seen only in photographs -- but too young by several years. Dazed, Valerie asks aloud: "Mom?" This seems to unsettle Relos, who demands to know who or what Valerie is. "I have so many questions!" says Relos, clearly perturbed by Valerie's existence. Infuriated, Jendra reiterates her opposition to Relos' visit, then turns and leaves in disgust when Relos ignores her. Valerie and Relos stare at each other in silence for a moment. Valerie reasons that Relos must be a Praxian from the same cloning "oven" as her mother, perhaps one from a parallel universe where Praxians were conquered by the Invid, but keeps her thoughts to herself. Instead, she offers to tell Relos the answers she seeks, but only if she helps S@GP escape. Relos is taken aback, but soon collects herself, accusing Valerie of trying to trick her into betraying the Totality like Arisis did. "I shouldn't be here... Jendra was right," Relos blurts out, but her confusion is all too apparent as she stumbles out of the brig.

Concurrently, Maia guides Arisis to a shrine filled with elaborate statuary and ceremoniously offers her younger sister a bowl of water, which she reveals to have come from the River Lethe. "Let this water flow; let it wash the blood from your hands and carry you home," she pleads. Arisis knows that to drink will obliterate her memories. Maia explains that Arisis could return to her side and help her attend to their father, Atlas, while her friends "would not be harmed." Arisis coldly refuses, shoving her sister to the floor of the shrine. Humiliated, Maia's facade cracks: "I hope Rizon destroys you," she cries repeatedly, using the name of the man that trained Arisis. "That's not going to happen," Arisis responds. "See you in the stars!" Maia's guards spirit her away, and lead Arisis back to the brig. 

As soon as she returns, Valerie takes Arisis aside, confesses that she eavesdropped on her conversation with Rhaphis, and urges her to reconsider. "Please listen... we gotta try to escape from here," she implores, and begins to ask Kat how they can use her drone to help escape. Arisis kneels and apologizes, allowing that although the chances are remote, escape might be possible, but insisting that the only way to ensure that Arisis' family will leave her and the rest of S@GP alone permanently is to prove their righteousness in combat. "We would be under their shadow until the time of their choosing. But if I face her and her champions, if I force my former teacher into submission, my family will leave me to my fate as I choose it: a life alongside you, my friends, my family." Solutions @ Gun Pointe share an emotional group embrace and swear to fight alongside one another, even if it is for the last time.

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