|V.Cain.Dust by K-Bonifield|
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
Fay, Demigod Super-Genius Smuggler (female demigod City Rat/Runner), 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
With Fay having joined the group, Solutions @ Gun Pointe takes advantage of her Horizont dropship's capabilities. As discussed with Sir Shanidar, they drop off a contingent of cyber-knights, a half-dozen titans, and Relos (along with a cargo container full of Naruni armaments) in Belize, to bolster the Range Knight Irregulars in their struggle in the Yucatan.
Arisis then turns her attention to local affairs in Serendipity, letting her friends know about some sort of hedonistic ball or fetish party to be held outside of town in a few days. Apparently this bash is thrown annually by a traveling troupe led by an individual using the rather grandiose moniker of "La Princessa Pnemenopanthalus", and has become something of a tradition among the locals. Arisis is bound and determined to check it out, and though Max is somewhat trepidatious ("Am I even old enough to be let in?"), Valerie has no such qualms about attending, saying that if Arisis is that interested, she's in.
(Later, Max has a low-key birthday celebration, in which he provides everyone in S@GP with membership at the local gun range, explaining that it'd be a good opportunity for the group to rub shoulders with the other mercs in Serendipity. For her part, Valerie presents Max with the gift of a dune buggy to replace his missing Wastelander motorcycle. Max is thrilled.)
Though the group's benefactor, Nysa, doesn't seem to be a particular fan of the Princessa's recurring presence in Serendipity (and indeed, states that she never personally participates in their festivities), she hosts a formal reception or "pre-party" for Pnemenopanthalus and her crew at the Social Club, explaining that the troupe's activities attract some of the city's most influential citizens. S@GP's presence is requested at this party, and they attend, dressed in their finest, though many of the wealthier guests -- guild masters, oil barons, and the like -- put them to shame. Nevertheless, our heroes are escorted to meet with the guests of honor soon after they arrive. They are (roughly in the order that S@GP meet them):
- Old Man Simms, a septuagenarian who is very interested in Valerie's bionic arms, and who Valerie allows to escort her for the evening
- Hamilton Ponchartrain, a very short but extremely muscular bruiser type
- Jack Spade, a teenage hacker that is constantly fiddling with a datapad
- Remy, an agile-looking full conversion cyborg armed with some sort of high-tech staff
- Joaquin Miranda, a wild-eyed man that seems amused by S@GP's presence and is imbibing massive quantities of illicit substances
- Reana Negron, a female fortune-teller (complete with crystal ball and gypsy-esque clothing) with whom Max has a brief conversation regarding dreams and portents
- Horacio, a silent practitioner of magic that wears a skull-like mask
- La Princessa Alexisandriath Pnemenopanthalus (or "Alexis" for short), a lithe, languid elven woman who seems to thrive on innuendo
- Invictus, a male elf who seems never to leave Pnemenopanthalus' side (and physically resembles her strongly)
- Miss Tess, a brash woman that acts as a master of ceremonies
- Alien Ahmed the Runner, a D-Bee in desert garb that serves as the crew's driver
The following evening, S@GP (along with many other citizens of Serendipity) travel to the ruins of Baton Rouge by rail for the party proper. The former city is half derelict buildings and half predator-infested swamp -- a dangerous location for revelry, to say the least, which seems to be part of the allure for the participants. Alexis' crew ensure that everyone attending understands that they do so at their own risk before they exit the train.
S@GP were expecting something fairly risque, but Max (at least) is taken aback by the sheer variety (and increasing debauchery) of the activities Alexis' troupe have on display amid the Baton Rouge ruins. He does his best not to look too interested, but he can't tear his eyes away from some of the performances, particularly when Alexis, Invictus, Horacio, Reana, and several others of the troupe's inner circle take the main stage. An elaborate sadomasochistic exhibition ensues, and those that watch it feel their perceptions altered by its intensity. Fay, though inured to this kind of torture by her upbringing among the evil Pantheon of Taut, is disturbed, and deduces that its impact on the crowd is somehow being artificially heightened to an almost frightening level by Joaquin Miranda, one of Alexis' followers. She resists the mind-altering effect Joaquin is causing, but Arisis and Valerie are less fortunate. Max is similarly reminded of some of the rituals performed by the Church of Tolmet in his home city, but is unable to stop himself from being caught up in the perverse spectacle (here, the GM invoked his Raging Hormones trouble quality, and I accepted a Determination point in exchange for an automatic failure on his Willpower roll).
Alexis and company's performance reaches its crescendo, and the air is suddenly filled with the sound of baying wolves. Max, disoriented, struggles to comprehend what is occurring, and reaches out telepathically to Arisis to ask her what's happening. He has difficulty contacting her -- something that is almost unprecedented -- and her response is that she doesn't know, but seems unconcerned about it. The howl seems to whip the crowd's tension to a breaking point, and the exhibition suddenly ends. When Miss Tess (in a spark-throwing exoskeleton) takes to the stage to ask for applause, the crowd erupts in a mad frenzy of excitement, and with the exception of Fay, S@GP are caught up in it. Arisis, Max, and Valerie party the rest of the night away with one another in wild abandon (with Max at one point assuming giant stature to dance with Arisis, at Valerie's suggestion). They are among the last to leave, and when Max notes that Ahmed seems to be loading up the traveling crew's APC, the D-Bee confirms that they will be moving on to another town soon. With that, our heroes return home to their compound to get some sleep.
Their rest is brief and fitful, however, as Fay, Max, and Valerie experience a vivid, shared dream that a great red-scaled dragon, their friend Arisis, and a gang of other giants are trying to tear down the walls of a castle to reach what lies within. The three somehow sense that their quarry is Quinn, the young Black Fortress woman that Max was formerly romantically involved with. There is a scream, and our heroes awaken to the sound of klaxons, and an amplified announcement stating that Black Fortress' headquarters is under attack!
Valerie, Fay, and Max confirm that they experienced a communal dream as they scramble to arm themselves, noticing that Arisis is nowhere to be seen. They race to Black Fortress' compound, with Fay riding on the back of Valerie's Cyclone, and Max flying to the scene in his techno-wizard power armor. Their fears are realized when they reach their destination: Black Fortress is in complete chaos, with Arisis shouting commands to a half-dozen titan followers, instructing them to smash their way in and "get the girl". A coterie of vampires has pushed their way into the compound, attacking Black Fortress personnel at will. The Coalition-affiliated mercenaries, caught by surprise, are hardly a match for their assailants, and their attempts to defend the base are made even more difficult by a thick fog that surrounds the entire area. As if the vampires, giants and mist weren't enough, huge swarms of swamp insects and packs of wild dogs are also harrying the disorganized and confused grunts.
Once Max has summoned a blast of wind to dissipate much of the fog, Fay's superior intellect and tactical acumen lets her ascertain Quinn's location within the compound, and she directs Max there. The young mystic rushes to his former flame's side. Valerie tries to grapple with Arisis, managing to get a partial hold on her -- a feat that would normally be almost impossible against the titan wrestling master. Realizing that the vampires are the source of the fog, the insect swarms, and the dog packs, Max evokes a globe of daylight to keep the undead at bay, away from the unarmed Quinn. A second incantation creates a localized rainstorm, which sends the vampires shrieking back into the night and gives Black Fortress' operatives time to regroup. The psi-stalker Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross, accompanied by his loyal Dog Girls, Barb and Bree, pursues the fleeing vampires into the darkness, and soon thereafter can be heard slaughtering the bloodsuckers.
A furious Arisis calls off the assault. Quinn is a bit shaken up, but nevertheless embraces Max and jokes that if they're going to stay broken up, he needs to stop rushing to her rescue. Thoughts of Arisis and Alexis are foremost on Max's mind, however, and his reunion with Quinn is cut short by the arrival of gun-toting Black Fortress mercenaries. The young scientist wearily orders them to lower their weapons, but Max, a spellcaster in the middle of what is effectively a Coalition base, is on edge. Meanwhile, Valerie desperately continues to try to detain and reason with her friend as the titans retreat from the compound. Arisis treats the headhunter as an annoyance, insisting that she leave her alone. When she realizes Valerie is determined to stop her at all costs, Arisis teleports away. Valerie can do nothing but watch as her former ally and her fellow titans vanish into nothingness.