Back on the Chain Gang…Gaming for 7/2/06

Yes, all right, so it took me two weeks to write last session’s summary. I had a lot of editing of actual books to do, plus the recap itself was a bit of a challenge — how do you recap a session where some of the players knew things before others? You just wing it, is what you do. This session was presented to us as a one-shot, set in a sci-fi universe, leaning more toward the “realistic” than the “fantastic.”

The scene opens in a prison transport ship. The four PCs are strapped quite securely into acceleration couches [And yes, this is the part where the editor supplies the full names that I don’t have.] Fitzgerald King [Brian] is a tall, burly guy, with long hair and badly in need of a shave. Even though they’ve been on the transport for 30 hours now, he’s still swearing constantly and struggling with his manacles, and has bloodied his wrists quite a bit. Mr. Evan Black [Doug] is a much smaller man with a shadowed face and a bookish look. He’s quite calm, and is carefully examining his companions and surroundings. Ms. Amy Wong [Paul] is a slight, young Asian woman, who appears to be barely out of her teens. She doesn’t have much to say, but is more inclined to talk to Black than either of the others. Finally, Isobel deNeuve [Wendy] is a taller, blonde (?) woman, who gives off as much of an air of confidence as is possible while chained up. All four are wearing standard gray prison jumpsuits, completely featureless except for a long serial number on each of them. They’re all convicted criminals, on their way to the prison planet Tartarus, from which no one ever returns, and no one ever escapes.

The ship reversed itself and the rockets fired as it none-too-gently decelerated for landing, although the prisoners could only infer this, since there are no windows. King started shouting for the guard and complaining about prisoner mistreatment, but there was no response. The prisoners were then left alone for a couple of hours while the ship’s crew presumably attended to post-landing procedures. It was the perfect opportunity for the group to get to know each other, but they restricted themselves to guarded comments about how they didn’t intend to stay here long. King just swore and shouted. Eventually, guards in powered assault armor arrived and removed the prisoners one at a time. Even King didn’t want to try to attack these guys bare-handed, so they all just went along.

They were led into a featureless room, where the Warden greeted them via a pre-recorded message (which didn’t stop King from shouting at it anyway). The Warden informed them that attempting escape is certain death – the atmosphere isn’t breathable, and it boils by day, freezes at night. They’ve also been thoroughly mind-scanned, so any escape plans they had are now known to the guards. If they do what they’re told, the rest of their lives will be minimally unpleasant. With that, a door slid open, and the prisoners entered their new lives.

The cell block was a huge cave, evidently rough-hewn with laser cutters, and then polished free of any sharp surfaces, but with no accommodation made for comfort. A few stone bridges served as catwalks, without any railings. The cave proper consisted of a series of wide terraces, narrowing to a smaller common area at the bottom. Each terrace had a number of caves carved into it for sleeping, but they were completely featureless other than that. Light came from a single glowing dome at the top of the cave, well out of reach. The chatter of the inmates was a constant background hum, punctuated by occasional shouts from the prisoners who’d been their long enough to go insane.

As the four newcomers looked down on their new home and wondered what to do next, they were approached by a small group of very large men with arms the size of tree limbs. Their leader was a bald, scarred man who introduced himself as Rock, and said that he runs the place. Rock and his lieutenants decide when people get to eat, where to sleep, and generally handle any problems that arise. “If you’re thinking of taking over,” Rock told them, “You should know that I’ve been in charge of this place for five years, and if they’re smart, that’ll tell you all you need to know. Anybody have a problem with that?” King replied that if nobody makes problems, there won’t be problems, and the rest of the group muttered assent while trying to give off “I’m not with this guy” vibes.

King then strode into the middle of the terrace, raised his arms, and started shouting, “That’s right, new blood! Take a good look! We all know what happens next, so let’s get it over with, right?” As predicted, a burly prisoner, not one of Rock’s group, immediately stepped up and took a swing at King, who dodged adroitly, and gave his attacker an elbow to the back of the head, knocking him out. [Note: Brian rolled double-sixes twice in succession in this encounter, making him feel quite bulletproof.] King gave Rock a quick “We cool?” and looked for what to do next.

Isabel suggested to King that they find a place to sleep, and after that display, they could probably pick any place they want, even the “desirable” caves, which seemed to be the ones on the lowest level. King marched down to the floor, picked a cave at random, and told the occupant, “This is mine now.” The prisoner decided not to accept this change of status so blindly, and kicked King in the face. King tried to reply in kind, but thirty seconds later, he was unconscious on the floor, bleeding heavily. The other three newcomers picked him up and dragged him off to an empty cave on a less prestigious level.

While King was unconscious, the other three prisoners finally got around to exchanging names, or at least what they were willing to be called. (Since King was out cold, they named him “Dusty.”) A chime sounded, and the prisoners started to gather on the lowest level, so the three standing members of the group joined them. Shortly, a glowing blue force shield established itself in the center of the area, a panel opened, and a platform covered with shrink-wrapped meals-ready-to-eat rose out of the hole, leaving not even the slightest gap. Rock and his men took up stations near the platform, and when the force bubble disappeared, the other prisoners lined up in front of the lackeys. The minions distributed the MREs to most of the prisoners, although a few were turned away with a head-shake. The rejected prisoners didn’t fight or protest, but simply wandered off. The three newcomers tried to get a good look at the platform mechanism, but didn’t learn much. They were also unable to get an extra meal for Dusty.

The three returned to their cave, opened their MREs, and tried to make plans. The food wrappers turned out to be completely unsuited for making a shiv, but Black saved them anyway. Eventually, King woke up and demanded to know why the others had brought him to shelter. They informed him that to survive, they’d need to stick together, and despite his one-and-one record, King was the duly appointed muscle. King accepted this state of affairs, washed his face, and went to sleep. The other three volunteered to keep watch, and the light dimmed. Eventually, the group was surrounded by the absolute blackness that you can only find at the bottom of a cave.

At this point, Black had a Revelation [and Doug had a conversation with the GM].

Wong’s and Isabel’s watches passed completely uneventfully, and were of random duration, since they had no way of determining the passage of time, or even if their eyes were open. During Black’s watch, something occurred, unbeknownst to Wong and Isabel.

At this point, King had a Revelation [and Brian got a conversation with the GM, and Doug].

The next morning, King seemed well-rested, and more subdued. The four went down to the common area to get breakfast, and to take another look at the food platform. They determined that the platform seemed to rise from a room below the floor, but with the force-shield in place, there wasn’t any way of reaching it. After returning to their cave, Black asked the others if they could keep a secret, and if they trusted him. King said he’d do whatever was needed, but Wong and Isabel wanted more explanation. Black asked them to wait until after dinner. The group spent the day exploring the upper levels of the giant chamber, looking for loose rocks (there weren’t any), or any way to reach the light (there wasn’t one).

After an uneventful dinner, as the lights dimmed in the cave, Black asked the others to join hands, which they did, with some misgivings. Black gestured, and after a dark rushing sensation, the four found themselves in another room, obviously the room below the common area where the food platform rested. Black tried to shush the others, but not quickly enough. Two guards in powered assault armor burst into the room from a side door and shouted for the prisoners not to move. Black immediately disappeared from where he was, reappeared out of a shadow behind one guard, and yanked the guard back into the shadow, where they both vanished. King simply turned and punched the other guard in the chest, causing him to fly across the room and into the far wall, where the armor shattered, and the wall got a nasty dent. Isabel and Wong were slightly taken aback at this point.

King ran over to the armor and found a long, sharp sliver of shattered metal. He passed it over to Wong, simply saying, “Take this.” Wong did so.

At this point, Wong had a Revelation.

Black reappeared out of the shadow, without the guard, and he and King examined the machinery of the food platform, deciding that it would do. They asked Wong if she could sever one of the power lines to the platform, and she pulled a long, bright blade out of nowhere, and quickly cut through a power cable, which began to arc. While Isabel tried to figure out what was going on, King grabbed her from behind and held her motionless while Black jabbed the live cable into her chest.

At this point, Isabel had a Revelation.

The four prisoners were actually metahuman agents, government operatives with amazing powers. Mr. Black has mastery over shadows. Mr. Zero (King) can store and use kinetic energy. The Blade (Wong) can produce ultra-sharp knives from thin air. The Lightning (Isabel) controls electricity. Each of them had been completely brainwashed to believe that they were convicted criminals, to evade the mind-probes, and inserted into the prison population. Each would be awakened by a different trigger, an event that wasn’t likely to happen to any of them before insertion. For Black, it was total darkness. Blade needed to hold a knife in her hand. Lightning required a hefty jolt of electricity. Zero needed a strong shot of kinetic energy, which Black had accomplished the previous night during his watch. He’d lured King out onto the terrace, then tossed him off, dropping him hundreds of feet to the floor. Their mission was to rescue a political prisoner being held somewhere in the complex, and escape with him to a stealth ship concealed on the dark side of the planet.

The group held a quick conversation, and decided that with two guards dead (well, one quite messily dead, and one vanished into shadow), returning to their disguises was probably out of the question. Black was able to teleport to the abandoned security station and determine where their target was, but wasn’t able to shut off any of the alarms. The group then opted for the direct route, and strode confidently down the hallway. They quickly encountered a checkpoint manned with armored guards and auto-cannons. Zero jumped forward and absorbed the energy of the guards’ bullets, dropping them to the ground with pleasant pinging noises. He then used that energy to pummel one guard, then another. Blade took out the security cameras with a couple of quick knives, and Lightning made short work of the auto-cannons. By this time, the remaining guard realized that shooting at Zero wasn’t very effective. Zero, deprived of the charge he needed to use his strength, instead used his power to stop time around the final guard, allowing Lightning to get close enough to fry him. Black teleported to the far side of the shield doors, and opened them. The party pondered what move to make next, and we broke for the evening.