Friday, March 18, 2016

Rifts Misadventures: Session 26

We finally picked up our Rifts campaign where we left off -- only to have it abruptly ended by technical difficulties. (Chris, who is currently the GM, was running the game long-distance via Google Hangouts and suffered a power failure at home.) We had fun anyway, and here's hoping we have better luck next time.

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

After some discussion of their options, Solutions @ Gun Pointe elect to travel to the coordinates the space pirate Intaglio provided them, hoping that the rendezvous with the unknown buyer of the Cairngorm Crystals will give them concrete information on Kat's location. Arisis and Valerie are somewhat dubious of this plan at first, but Max convinces them that charging blindly after Kat without first getting more information would only put her, and themselves, at greater risk.

First, however, they take a night's worth of rest, during which Valerie experiences a terrifyingly vivid dream. In it, she chases a giggling Patty Biggers -- the young girl whom she and her companions rescued from Mexican vampires -- around S@GP's compound. Valerie eventually tracks Patty down, and finds her drawing a figure-eight on a wall in blood. At her feet lies S@GP's ally, the bounty hunter Reez, with her neck slashed open. As Valerie steps forward, Patty is replaced with a cackling Mian, who then changes once more  -- into a long, sleek dragon.

Valerie awakens with a jolt, finding a small blue crystal placed on her chest. She wraps the crystal in a towel and exits her bungalow, nearly tripping over a sleeping Patty Biggers along the way. The sleepy youngster says she gave Valerie "the shiny... 'cause you're purty," and then runs off into the dawn. Disturbed, Valerie spends the rest of the night contemplating her dream, then heads into the compound proper to alert her friends and review security footage. With Arisis' aid, the amazon headhunter determines that Patty swam to the group's headquarters, entering their property via the river behind it. The girl picked up the crystal from the hangar where the cargo S@GP took from Intaglio was kept. Security footage shows that an errant gardening drone knocked over one of the crates filled with Cairngorm Crystals. When a few of them spilled out, they changed from the spiky, urchin-like form Max in which saw them harvested (in his postcognitive vision) to blue shards like the one that Valerie found on her chest. (An identical change had occurred earlier, when Max tried to examine one of the crystals and saw it metamorphose to a state that resembled his own crystalline armor.) Max, mystified, casts a spell to find Patty's current location -- something which proves difficult for him to ascertain. He then decides to try touching one of the crystals that spilled out of the container to his armor, and finds that the crystal is completely absorbed, recharging his armor's energy slightly in the process.

Questions abound, but with the appointed time fast approaching, Fay points out that the group needs to formulate a game plan and get moving. Subterfuge is considered, but since the identity of the buyer is a complete unknown, our heroes decide that the best course of action is to bluntly point out that the original procurer, Intaglio, is out of the picture, and that S@GP now have the goods the mystery buyer wants. With that out of the way, they board the Horizont with their crystal cargo and teleport to the Three Galaxies dimension en route to their final destination. (The Horizont's dimensional teleportation drive can only jump from one dimension to another.) While in transit, the face of Karen Cray appears on the viewscreen. The hacker says that she's been trying to reach S@GP for some time, and that they're heading into a trap. Before our heroes can ask for more details, they materialize back in their home dimension, at the coordinates provided by Intaglio.

Expecting the worst, S@GP are confronted with a relatively sedate scene: the ruins of an old church standing in the Southwestern desert, near what once would have been called Four Corners. Fay's instruments detect two lifeforms on the far side of the rubble, who are soon revealed to be S@GP's friends, the bounty hunters Mian and Reez. Max is immediately suspicious, especially in the wake of Valerie's nightmare and Karen's warning. He attempts to surreptitiously cast a nullification spell on Mian from inside Fay's spacecraft, hoping it will reveal Mian's true self if she is not what she seems. Unfortunately, the spell fails.

Fay lands her craft, and our heroes cautiously disembark. Valerie hears the sound of an approaching engine and leaves to intercept it on her Cyclone, in motorcycle mode, with Max trailing after her in his (much slower) flying crystalline armor. Arisis and Fay ask how and why Mian and Reez came to be in this location, and the frustrated bounty hunters explain that they were offered a simple cargo pickup job via the Three Galaxies' IMJN network, and cashed in the favor that Naruni Enterprises still owed them to travel to Earth. The four put their heads together and soon learn that the crates in which the Cairngorm Crystals are held are marked with serial numbers that correspond to additional dimensional coordinates. Fay and Arisis opine that someone is trying to lead S@GP and their allies on a goose chase.

Meanwhile, Valerie finds the source of the engine noise -- a beat-up jeep-type vehicle driven by a portly man who tells her he was on his way back to his home settlement, a town called Rattle Cliff, apparently roughly 50 miles away. Valerie informs the man that she will be escorting him away from the area (but still toward his destination). He insists that he wants no trouble but has little choice but to agree to her terms. Valerie radios her team and updates them on her status, then is on her way.

Max gives up on trying to catch up with Valerie and returns to his companions, wondering aloud how Mian and Reez were planning to get back to Phase World. Reez and Mian reveal that they brought along their spaceship (and their giant mecha), and had planned to travel to Serendipity after securing the cargo, to enlist S@GP's help in returning home.  Arisis suggests that Mian and Reez stick with their plan and carry the cargo back to Serendipity. The pair agree, and waste little time in boarding their ship and departing. Max then realizes that the area is highly reminiscent of the desert landscape he saw Kat's BAKENEKO drone traversing in his earlier psionic reverie.

Not long afterwards, Valerie returns, having ensured that the man in the jeep was on his way. Max communicates his hunch to his comrades, and they elect to set out aboard the Horizont in search of Rattle Cliff, as a possible lead on Kat's whereabouts. Soon after taking to the air, Fay detects a massive sandstorm, rapidly heading directly for them. In his flying armor, Max exits the craft, trying to exert magical control over the storm -- and fails to do so. He returns to the cockpit, softly cursing, as his magic has thus far failed him and his friends thrice in one day. His frustration is forgotten when the group spots the man in the jeep, speeding across the desert a short distance away, with the sandstorm -- which turns out to be charged with bolts of magical energy -- threatening to engulf him.

Calming his mind, Max reaches out with his powers of telekinesis, successfully lifting the jeep and its driver into the air and towards one of the Horizont's cargo compartments. Valerie and Fay work to get the ship into position, but too late: the storm is upon them in all its fury, which proves too much for the young mystic. "No," Max murmurs, and he and Arisis watch, crestfallen, as jeep and driver are wrenched out of his psionic grip and into the howling storm, out of sight. Arisis seethes, insisting that they do something, but Max dejectedly states that the man is now beyond their help.

Fay and Valerie struggle valiantly to control the Horizont. While Valerie flies with steely expertise, Fay, unaccustomed to piloting a spacecraft in atmosphere, overcompensates wildly, and the gale force winds and eldritch lightning overcome her ship. The Horizont tumbles out of control, knocking Fay unconscious in an instant. Max's armor protects him from the initial shockwave, but when the ship crashes to the sands below, he is also knocked out. Valerie maintains consciousness, but is wedged against the controls by her broken co-pilot's seat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the impact has no effect on Arisis' titan physique. The giantess frees Valerie, and the two then attend to their teen companions, who regain consciousness several minutes later. In grim silence, our heroes wait out the storm inside the crashed spaceship.

Exiting the Horizont, a battered S@GP find a weathered sign hanging on a fence, beyond which are visible two large heaps of junk covered in fungi and crawling with insects. Further off in the distance, our heroes spy a village nestled in a small canyon or valley. The sign looks very old, with several sections of additional text added more recently, and bears a symbol that resembles an inverted capital "A" with a cross above it -- the same sigil that Kat scrawled on the scrap of paper her drone carried back to S@GP headquarters. The sign reads as follows:

Welcome To

NO YES Fishing or Hunting Without Proper Permits
NO Motorized Vehicles

(additions to sign)
MUTIES, D-BEES and the like welcome!


NO Prestidigitators, Conjurers, Witch Doctors, Medicine Men, Voodoo Priestesses, Firestarters, Mind Whammiers, etc, etc, etc…


Max, who speaks a half-dozen languages but whose grasp of literacy is limited at best, spots something familiar in one of the piles of wreckage -- his dearly missed Wastelander motorcycle, which Kat "borrowed" from him before disappearing. "That's my bike," he says, and steps past the fence to investigate before his comrades can stop him. Max screams in pain as soon as he sets foot beyond the gate, his armor breaking apart before he collapses. Almost simultaneously, Arisis charges in after her young friend, and Valerie extends her VAMPS bionic arms to drag him to safety.

[Around this point in the session, we lost our connection with Chris, the GM, who elected to tell us what happened to our characters via our Google+ community. I'll let him describe it in this his own words:]

As he approaches his wayward bike, he begins to hear a jingling, tinkling sound - like wind blowing through a chandelier. It starts out low, then grows louder, and louder, AND LOUDER, until finally the din becomes a roar -- no, more like a scream. Max soon realizes the scream is his own. Pain rushes through him like a wave as every ounce of magical and psychic energy leaves his body. Simultaneously, he feels his armor begin to vibrate, crack, then shatter. The shards explode outward slightly, pausing mid-flight in a kind of blown-up pattern mimicking the original form of the armor. It surrounds Max, who stands rigidly frozen in a silent scream. Then the shards suddenly drop as Max crumples to the ground.

Val's VAMPS suddenly retract. Her arms (of their own volition) begin clawing towards her face as blood and smoke stream from her eyes and ears. There is a sickly sizzling sound followed by an audible pop as Val rips out one of her own eyes. She then collapses to her knees, her one remaining eye glows red then burns out like a used piece of charcoal. Her mouth moves wordlessly as she crumples to the ground the eye she removed rolling out of her hand into the dirt and grime.

Arisis barely gets a toe past the invisible barrier that has left her S@GP compatriots paralyzed in their tracks when her strength seems to fails her. Arisis attempts to steady herself, leaning against a nearby saguaro cactus. Much to her surprise, the needles pierce her skin, the barbs digging deep into normally supernaturally enhanced flesh. She reels back more in shock then pain, staring at the blood dripping from the fresh wound. She slowly falls to her hands and knees, reduced to crawling like an infant to make any further progress towards her friends.

Before Fay can take a step, the hieroglyphic markings on her arm turn black and begin to smoke. The smoke swirls around her, forming into a shadowy figure, cloaked and hooded. The figure wraps its arms around Fay, and a disembodied, gravely voice croaks, “This is not a place for you, my child.” The shadowy robes engulf Fay and they both vanish. At that same moment, the dimensional engines of the Horizont engage, and the ship teleports away.