Friday, December 11, 2015

Rifts Misadventures: Session 22

We played a somewhat brief, but extremely enjoyable investigation-oriented session last weekend. Felix's knack for running fantastically hateable villains was on full display, and he knew when to let his players do their thing and get themselves into trouble. It's a refreshing contrast to the sometimes fairly railroady approach I used during my adventure.

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

In the wake of a vampire attack led by Solutions @ Gun Pointe member Arisis Solstice and her titan followers, pandemonium reigns at Black Fortress headquarters! As the Coalition-affiliated mercenaries scramble to regain a semblance of order in the chaos, Max confronts Quinn, the apparent target of the assault, demanding to know why they sought her out. Quinn professes to have no idea, and with Black Fortress troops rapidly closing in on their location -- and Valerie insisting via radio that they leave immediately and help track down Arisis -- Max and Fay decide to evacuate the premises. The youths are able to elude Black Fortress and exit their HQ (aided by Chameleon magic), then reunite with Valerie. Serendipity's Federal Army has sent troops to pacify the area, and they nearly spot our heroes making their escape, but the thick mists that still permeate the part of town surrounding the besieged base cloak them from detection. The group hears Sir Shanidar, leader of the local Cyber-Knights, commanding them to "hold!" but pay him no heed for now.

S@GP find the adjoining neighborhood in nearly as poor a condition as the mercenary base. The summoned fog hangs thick over the town, reducing visibility to a few feet. The air is filled with angry swarms of insects and the sound of confused and injured townsfolk crying out for aid. Wild dogs, while no longer under vampiric control, still roam the streets, terrorizing the locals and menacing the wounded. Valerie reconfigures her VAMPS bionic arms to blast the dogs with bursts of hypersonic frequencies, sending many (but not all) of them running. Fay and Max cut down some of remaining dogs with controlled bursts of laser fire from their sidearms, until Max decides he'd do more good if he attended to the wounded citizens with his healing magic.

A distraught Valerie reminds her friends that their focus should be on finding Arisis. Fay voices her belief that "La Princessa" Alexisandriath Pnemenopanthalus is responsible, and proposes that there might be a way to track the teleporting titans, possibly using her Horizont starship, which possesses a techno-wizardry dimensional drive. Max suggests that Arisis may have been possessed, and mentions that Quinn has the psionic ability to sense dimensional disturbances. This prompts Fay's decision to reinfiltrate Black Fortress and attempt to get more information out of the young scientist. Before he leaves to help with the injured, Max asks Valerie to explain what she can to the Cyber-Knights.

In the slowly dissipating fog, Valerie and Sir Shanidar find each other in short order. Shanidar is furious, demanding to know why Arisis led the assault on Black Fortress HQ. Valerie explains that she is possessed -- probably by Alexis -- and that as one of their own, Solutions @ Gun Pointe will handle her. The Cyber-Knight allows that he has little love for La Princessa, but lets his elven prejudices show, shouting that he knew all along that trusting Arisis (and the rest of her titan kind) would prove to be a disastrous mistake. Valerie considers using her bionic arms' hypersonic tweeters to spook the elf's warhorse, but thinks better of it. "Three months ago, I'd have shot his horse. Three weeks ago, I'd have had it throw him. Now..." Her thought process is interrupted when she sees the techno-wizardry-powered flying boat of Metry Air Taxi float by in the distance.

Valerie chases the flying taxi down, thinking that its operators may have seen Arisis and her new friends in the area. Ralph Metry tells her he didn't see any giants during the night, but is receptive to Valerie's suggestion that as techno-wizards, he and his brother Emerson may be able to rig Fay's ship with a means of detecting dimensional teleportation. Valerie formulates a plan, but along the way to her next stop, she makes a quick visit to the encampment that Nysa had set up for the titan refugees, finding nothing out of place (other than the absence of titans themselves). One of the workers informs Valerie that he saw Arisis arrive in the night, enter the domicile of the half-dozen titans that had not gone on the Yucatan expedition with Relos, and depart ten minutes later with all of them in tow. This had not struck anyone as unusual at the time -- indeed, they were unaware of the titans' subsequent attack on Black Fortress until Valerie informed them. She then tries enlist the aid of an operator garage in the Gun Street area to assist the Metry brothers in upgrading Fay's ship, and the combination of Valerie's charms and the garage crew's sense of community is enough to convince them. Before long, the operators and the techno-wizards are at S@GP's compound, hard at work on the Horizont.

Even with their base on high alert, Fay finds it relatively easy to sneak back into Black Fortress, using her beyond-genius-level intellect (and her armor's magical Chameleon capabilities) to anticipate and bypass their heightened security measures. As she makes her way towards the section of the facility occupied by Grey Gate, the mercenary team's paranormal research wing, Fay overhears preparations for "paying Solutions @ Gun Pointe a visit." The young demigoddess finds Quinn being held for questioning, with Quinn insisting that she has no idea why the titans were after her, or what S@GP's involvement was. One of her interrogators is the psi-stalker Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross, who openly disbelieves her, saying "I know your boyfriend is one of them!" Quinn flatly denies this as well: "He's not my boyfriend." Ross seems to be on the verge of detecting Fay's presence, but the chief of Black Fortress, cyborg Brigadier Omar Espinoza, abruptly terminates the questioning and dismisses all personnel save Quinn, ordering that his younger sister be confined to base until further notice. Fay enters as soon as the Brigadier exits and confronts the agitated Quinn, who maintains that she is unaware of why she was the titans' quarry and that even if she wanted to help S@GP, she'd be unable to, grounded as she is. Fay trades a few barbs with the paranormal researcher before Quinn shrugs and calls for guards, signaling the end of the conversation. Frustrated, Fay is nevertheless able to elude detection on her way out of the base as easily as she did on the way in, and tells Max where she's planning to go next.

Meanwhile, Max, having expended his magical healing energies, returns to S@GP HQ to investigate Arisis' living quarters. He finds them in a state of disarray, and use of his postcognitive abilities reveals a vision of Arisis herself trashing the bungalow with obvious glee. Part of this vision involves Arisis knocking her sapient rune weapon, the Sword of Baragor, from its rack, and Max recovers the blade from the corner where it lies. As soon as he touches it, Baragor, the entity that resides within it, initiates mental contact with him, manifesting himself in Max's mind's eye as a blinding white light. Baragor is curt in his interactions with the young mystic, who is already aware that he falls somewhat short of Arisis' standard (and thus, the entity's exacting expectations), but nevertheless states that the person that cast him aside was not Arisis. Baragor cannot say whether the presence occupying Arisis was elven, but confirms that whatever it was, it was "depraved". Now certain that Alexis has somehow possessed Arisis, Max accepts the responsibility of reuniting Baragor with Arisis and restoring their bond.

Having successfully escaped Black Fortress HQ for the second time, Fay visits the home of Nysa, the godling who has acted as S@GP's benefactor since their arrival in Serendipity. Nysa welcomes Fay and grants her access to her records on Alexis and her troupe. Fay learns the names (and in some cases, an idea of the capabilities) of most of Alexis' companions, and also finds that the elf is literally the princess of a clan of swamp-dwelling elves. An exhausted Max then catches up with Fay and asks Nysa if there might be a connection between Dr. Stakes and Black Fortress' research division, or between Black Fortress and Alexis' troupe. Nysa is unsure of the former, but recollects that there was a scuffle between some Black Fortress grunts and some of Alexis' employees a few years ago, shortly after Black Fortress arrived in Serendipity. Unable to learn much more, Fay and Max take their leave, but not before Nysa takes Max aside and expresses her concern for him, saying that he is clearly drained and needs to rest. Max acknowledges Nysa, and asks if she can ensure that their headquarters are kept under watch if S@GP has to leave Serendipity again, to which she instantly agrees.

Back at S@GP's compound, Valerie is overseeing the crew's initial work on Fay's starship when she is alerted to inbound intruders by the base's security systems, arriving via the river running behind it. A half-dozen fanboats crewed with armed Black Fortress troops led by Master Sergeant Jesse John Ross are intercepted by Valerie and an assortment of automated defenses, including Arisis' robotic T-Rex mount, Kat's KAPPA cannon-drone, and various other mechanized armaments. Ross barks orders at Valerie, demanding that S@GP "hand over yer big'un". Valerie is unimpressed, explaining that Arisis isn't there, pointing out that she and her friends fought to help stop the titan assault on Black Fortress' base, and reminding Ross that he has no authority over Solutions in the first place. Ross and his Dog Boys, noticing that they cannot sense the supernatural giant's presence, soon realize that Arisis is indeed not on the premises, and withdraw after some token saber-rattling.

Max and Fay return to the base soon afterwards. Max is incensed that Black Fortress mobilized against S@GP. Fay seems unsurprised, then admits that she knew it was coming, and correctly guessed that Valerie would handle it without issue. Max is taken aback, then distracted when Fay says "your girlfriend's a bitch, by the way." Max says "she's not my girlfriend," but is forced to agree with the thrust of Fay's argument, though he states his belief that Quinn is fundamentally a good person that feels trapped by her situation. Fay is sympathetic to Max's disappointment in Quinn for remaining with Black Fortress, but points out that both Max and herself had to emancipate themselves from their own families, and that if Quinn wants to do the same, she'll need to do it on her own.

The teen members of S@GP's chat is cut short by another alert -- someone is at the compound's front door. The group checks a viewscreen, and the visitor is revealed to be a very disheveled-looking, very young girl. Valerie is unnerved, wondering aloud if "she's a ghost or something" and volunteers Max to handle the situation. Max sighs and asks (via intercom) what the girl needs, and she piteously asks for help. When Max picks her up and brings her inside, the girl identifies herself as Patty, and begs our heroes to help her family, the Biggers, who have a farm several miles outside of town. With horror, Valerie notes bite marks on the child's skin, and Patty Biggers tearfully delivers her message: that the "bad people" will hurt her family if Solutions @ Gun Pointe do not deliver Quinn to them at midnight.