Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 6

Trouble in Helium City, Part 3

As the truck pulled away from the hotel, carrying what was correctly suspected to be Xanatos inside a wooden box. Jamie, Storm and William gave chase. Storm pulled his axe out and began to chase on foot whilst Jamie impressed upon a horse-riding gentlemen the importance of stopping the horrible man that had kidnapped her poor younger brother. Apparently, Jamie has womanly wiles that even she didn’t know she had. She cut a dashing figure as she fired her revolver from horseback; her bullets spoinging of the truck’s body. William decided not to immediately give chase. Still carrying his bow, he instead opted to loose a brace of arrows at the fleeing Jeremiah.

With the bullet impacts and the arrows, which shattered the rear window and struck Jeremiah as he drove, their NeoVictorian quarry soon became aware that he was being pursued. The truck accelerated away, Jamie galloping along after it. Storm realised that he would never catch up on foot. He ran over to a hogtrike that had pulled to the side of the road. Without saying a word, he grabbed the startled driver and threw him to the floor then leapt onto the hogtrike, gunned the engine and drove off in pursuit of Jeremiah’s truck. While William’s bow still gave him the range, the automaton loosed a few more arrows before realising that he needed to find some form of transport otherwise he’d be left behind. He quickly found a horse, clambered on to it, and set off in pursuit.

Eagle-eyed Jamie noticed that Jeremiah was heading towards a cluster of mooring posts on the edge of the city. In addition, she could see that he was flashing his headlights in a repeating pattern. It was obvious to her that he was signalling someone, even if she couldn’t work out exactly what he was saying.

Meanwhile, at a nearby cafe, Constantine and Zeke were waiting for a signal. A signal such as a truck being chased by his first mate on the back of horse, his boarding officer riding a hogtrike and waving an axe like an Australian post-apocalyptic villain, and his cabin boy struggling to keep on another horse. Zeke, decides that letting the others have all the fun is just not on. He ran out of the cafe, into the street, and leapt on top of a passing van heading in the right direction. Jumping from vehicle to vehicle he slowly gained ground.

Storm’s hogtrike pulled alongside Jeremiah’s truck and the youth jumped across onto the bonnet of the truck, wielding his axe and smashing it down onto the windscreen. Jeremiah was stunned by Storm’s sudden attack that he failed to notice the horse that Jamie was riding pull up on the driver’s side. She fired at Jeremiah through the side window and the bullet struck the man, distracted by Storm’s axe narrowly missing his head, was struck in the side. He slumped over the wheel, twisting it as he did so. The truck swerved, flipped, and rolled over several times before coming to a stop. Storm was luckily flung clear of the wreck and walked away with any a few bruises and scuffed clothes.

A banging from the box on the back of the truck, and a muffled “get me the *%@# out of here!”, revealed that Xanatos was indeed hidden inside; having been taken back the Jeremiah’s hotel room under false pretences and then drugged. Storm and Jamie helped him out of as the others arrived; Constantine arriving in a taxicab.

As they gathered around the overturned truck, a low drone from overhead filled the air and a large airship eclipsed the sun. Hovering low over the city, and in violation of Helium City’s “no overfly” ordinance, was a large airship of Imperial design. A series of hatches along its keel opened up and eight objects dropped down, slamming into the ground. They were armoured ganger automatons; a chain gun in place of their left arms, a retractable blade in their right, the metal of their armour has black and without insignia. Each of the automatons was still attached to the airship with a heavy-duty metal cable.

The crowd of bystanders backed away quickly with panicked whispers of “Chuno Ggun” as the automaton’s surrounded the truck with a protective cordon. They quickly extracted the unconscious Jeremiah and were winched back up into the ship. As soon as they were aboard, the airship moved off before Helium City’s air defence could respond.

Constantine and his crew decided to make a sharp exit and return to the Nimbus before the authorities showed up with uncomfortable questions. He was more than a little perturbed that he may have earned the ire of a Chuno Ggun agent.

Things began to settle down over the next couple of days. Pine Coffin managed to use the evidence gathered to get all charges against Xanatos dropped. He even managed to get the Lightning Pistol back, which Constantine quickly confiscated. The next morning, the crew awoke to a curious sight on the front page of the Helium City Herald; a blurry photo of Jamie on horseback charging down the street. The photo was accompanied with a story that painted her as a dashing lady who courageously confronted a dastardly Imperial agent intent on making off with her defenceless younger brother.

A few days after getting Xanatos back, Constantine ordered the entire crew to rendezvous at a hotel somewhere in town for a job. Jamie had hired a pair of covered trucks to transport the crew. When they arrived, Constantine sent the crew into a darkened room. When he joined them a few moments later with Xanatos, the crew yelled surprise. Jamie and Constantine had arranged for a surprise party to celebrate the captain’s little brother’s 17th birthday.

After a night of drunken debauchery and it was time to get back to work. They were approached by a representative of the North American Geographical Association a potential job offer. Accompanied by his officers, Constantine paid a visit to the NAGA office in town where he met with a Doctor James Winston III. He explained that the organisation was putting together an expedition departing in a weeks time for Russian America and they were looking hire on a small number of persons to provide shipboard security for the duration of the trip. After reading about the activities of the Nimbus’ crew in the paper, it seems they were an obvious choice. Doctor Winstanley was looking to hire 10 of the Nimbus’ crew. After realising that the Nimbus could get on with some simple trading work while they were gone, Constantine quickly agreed. The details were worked out, contacts signed. All they needed to do now was gear-up for a trip beyond the arctic circle.

Next time – Cold Front

Wikilinks - Jeremiah Belforet (Updated)The El DoradoNAGADr James Winston III

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 5

Trouble in Helium City, Part 2

The evidence was mounting that Xanatos been framed. The Doc had taken a blood sample from Xanatos and tested it. There was alcohol in it, but not enough to explain Xanatos’ hazy memory of the previous night, nor enough to impair his judgement. Jeremiah’s presence only seemed to cement the possibility.

Constantine asked Jamie, accompanied by Storm and William, to keep an eye on Jeremiah as they were unlikely to be recognised by the NeoVictorian. They followed him from the coffee bar to Helium City’s small NeoVictorian Quarter. He walked into an up-scale hotel that catered almost exclusively to visiting NeoVictorian dignitaries and IAN officers.

Meanwhile, Zeke had met up with the Doc and Constantine at a teashop. Constantine was in dire need of some civilised sophistication. After filling Zeke in on the situation, they discussed their options. A daring rescue was quickly ruled out. For once, the adage “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This meant, despite some groans, they would not broadside the police station. At the very least, it would violate Helium City’s “No Overfly” ordinance. Zeke suggested they get a lawyer. At the very least, they’ll be able to say they tried to follow the rules. He recommended a fellow by the name of Jonathan Pine Coffin.

Back at the hotel, Jamie and the others had selected a vantage point on a building opposite to keep an eye out for Jeremiah. They didn’t have to wait long as soon after he had arrived, Jeremiah decided to have brunch on the balcony of his hotel suite. William noticed while Jeremiah was eating that his right hand was bandaged and as he rolled up his sleeve minor burns could be seen on his forearm. Exactly the same type of burns left behind by a malfunctioning lightning pistol backfiring. After watching him for an hour, they decided to head to the teashop to rendezvous with the others; arriving just as Constantine, Zeke and the Doc left to go visit the lawyer.

En masse, they arrived at the offices of Jonathan Pine Coffin finagling their way into an immediate appointment. Despite making a rather intimidating group, Pine Coffin didn’t seem that fazed. Constantine explained the situation with Xanatos, and their suspicions in regards to Jeremiah. After listening carefully, the lawyer agreed that their claim that Xanatos had been framed might have some merit. It wouldn’t be the first time that a wealthy individual had bought some injustice in Helium City. After negotiating a fee, Pine Coffin agreed to take on the case.

The rest of the day saw Jamie and Co (Storm and William again) monitoring Jeremiah’s movements whilst Pine Coffin looked into a few things. Constantine meanwhile had calmed down long enough to finally go and see his brother. Xanatos seemed to be doing okay in jail, although he couldn’t remember anything from the night before. Surely if he’d gotten drunk enough to do the things they’d said he’d done, then shouldn’t he have a hangover? Nevertheless, he was most insistent that Constantine “not tell mom.”

That evening, after Jeremiah went to visit a high-class brothel, they reconvened on the Nimbus. Pine Coffin had had another round of testing on a sample of Xanatos’ blood done and discovered that not only was the level of alcohol in the blood insufficient to cause intoxication, but there were traces of a very powerful sedative. He planned to gather the evidence together and present it to the authorities next morning in the hopes that he could get the charges dismissed.

However, shortly after breakfast, Pine Coffin paid an unexpected visit to the Nimbus with news of a worrying development. Someone had paid Xanatos’ non-existent bail and the youth had been released into the care of someone matching Jeremiah’s description. At this point it appeared the gloves were off and as the crew began to discuss using their mercenary skills (it’s not just a Schtick, it’s a skill set!”) to rescue Xanatos from where they assumed he was being held (Jeremiah’s hotel), Pine Coffin decided that it was time before he became an accessory to something.

Jamie and Co, accompanied by the Doc, hurried to the hotel. In order to get passed the front doorman without attracting too much attention, they had to “dress up” to look like they belonged there. In Jamie’s case, this meant wearing a dress for perhaps the first time. As they approached the hotel however, they spotted Jeremiah having a box loaded on to the back of a truck. A box large enough to fit someone inside. Jeremiah got into the driving seat and drove off.

Next time Trouble in Helium City, Part 3

WikilinksJonathan Pine Coffin

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 4

Trouble in Helium City, Part 1

Swooping out of the sky, the Nimbus bore down on their target. They had been hired to retrieve stolen property being carried aboard the Condor’s Flight, a Piranha-class airship crewed by smugglers who had left Helium City in a hurry. Catching the Condor by surprise, they quickly gave chase. The smuggler’s shed altitude and dropped into Palu Duro canyon.

Zeke slotted the Nimbus in behind the Condor as Constantine encouraged the crew. Xanatos tinkered with the engines, eaking out a few extra revolutions from the props. They banked and turned down the canyon’s twisty path; the Nimbus quickly gaining ground thanks to everyone’s efforts. As they neared, William sniped at the enemy ship from his position in the dorsal crows nest, his bow giving him a range that no one else had.

The Condor’s crew didn’t waste time returning fire. They fired a net at the Nibmus’ port engine, entangling the props and shutting the engine down. The ship slewed to the side due to the thrust imbalance. Zeke throttled back the starboard engine and yelled for Xanatos. The young engineer clambered out onto the port engine and started to cut at the net’s strands. It takes him a couple of minutes to clear the net and restart the engine and by the time he has, the Condor has pulled ahead.

Throwing open the throttles, the Nimbus streaks forward after the Condor. The smuggler’s luck runs out and they careen into a sandstone pillar, rebounding out across the canyon. The Nimbus, unable to avoid the collision rear-ends the smuggler, taking only minimal damage but ending up alongside the Condor. The two ship’s exchanged broadsides as Jamie used the grappling hook launcher to snare the Condor and reel it in.

Storm led the boarding action, leaping across to the Condor and laying into its marine contingent with his battleaxe; swinging it around like a barbarian warrior of legend. He quickly carved his way through the marines, earning himself the nickname “Slayer” from the Nimbus’ crew. The rest of the officers weren’t far behind with both Zeke and Xanatos leaping into the fray while Constantine, Jamie and the Doc sniped from the deck of the Nimbus. Even William got in the act.

The smuggler captain seemed to focus is ire on Constantine, aiming at him with a funky-looking handgun which turned out to be a pistol-sized version of a Lightning Gun. However, the weapon seemed to malfunction as the captain fired it, backfiring and dumping its charge into the grip instead of the barrel.

Meanwhile, the boarding party had made short work of the marines and had begun to engage the Condor’s crew proper. They proved no match for the Nimbus’ crew. Their will to fight deserting them completely when Constantine, William, the Doc and Jamie all fired upon the Condor’s captain. When the smoke cleared, there wasn’t much left of the perforated, punctured and scorched enemy captain. The surviving crew quickly surrendered. There was a dispute between Xanatos and Constantine over who should get the enemy captain’s Lightning Pistol. Constantine thought that as Captain he had a right to first pick. Xanatos argued finders keepers. Somehow Xanatos won the argument.

After recovering the stolen item, the Nimbus’ crew helped themselves to the Condor’s cargo. Constantine had agreed that the Nimbus could keep whatever cargo could be looted from the Condor in lieu of a regular cash payment, This turned out to be a shrewd decision as they were able to net just over a thousand helios in loot, plus the salvage cost of the defeated Condor. With their prize in tow, they returned to Helium City.

After making port in Helium City, the crew sold the Condor and its cargo. Constantine was already thinking big and was planning on acquiring a second ship, possibly a Barracuda. The crew was in good spirits, as they split up to enjoy their new-found wealth. Zeke went to a club to engage in some “gentlemen’s boxing” (read “fight club”). Constantine decided to splash out on some art visited a gallery. Jamie and Xanatos were dragged along but Xanatos stormed off when his brother told him in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t allow him to drink inside the gallery. Constantine ended up with a rather … um … controversial piece. A water colour of Emperor Victor Joseph Hypocrates III cavorting with a pair of under-aged NeoBedouin girls who each possessed distinct feline characteristics (a fact made more controversial with the fact that the Emperor himself is only 13).

The next morning, as everyone sat down to breakfast someone was missing, Xanatos. Asking around the crew, they discovered that the last anyone saw of Xanatos, he was heading into a tavern. Concerned, they went looking and after some searching they found the tavern in question. A local mentioned that there’d been some trouble at the tavern the night before, some poor bastard had been taken to hospital and a boy matching Xanatos’ description had been dragged of by the police.

Wondering just what his brother had gotten himself in to, Constantine went to the local police station. He learns that Xanatos has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. It seems he got into a fight in the tavern and shot a man with the lightning pistol. They had a witness, a suspect and physical evidence (the gun), a conviction would be easy. There was no bail since Xanatos was considered … ahem … a flight risk being a skysailor.

Constantine sent the Doc to go check on Xanatos as he was worried that if he saw him, he’d punch his lights out. Leaving the police station he noticed someone sitting at a coffee bar opposite the police station. It was a NeoVictorian gentlement that Constantine recognised easily,Jeremiah Belforet. The man noticed Constantine standing outside the police station and he raised his coffee cup in mock salute, smiling slyly.

GM’s Commentary :-)

Three comments this week. Firstly, I really need to look at the combat rules. I’m pretty sure everyone’s meant to declare their intentions, then everyone acts. I’ve gotten to use to combat systems where its declare-act-resolve all in one go. This seems to result in my poor NPCs getting completely smeared into paste when 4 members of the crew gang up on an NPC that’s already acted. As what happened this session with the smuggler captain.

Secondly, I didn’t realise how young the Emperor is supposed to be. I was assuming he was somewhere in his 20s, 30s, 40s, you know, an adult. So I figured that the painting that Constantine bought was controversial enough. Then, a couple of hours before the next session (I’m actually a week behind in writing these) one of my player’s mentioned in passing that the Emperor was 13. It’s apparently mentioned in one of the songs so I googled the lyrics and lo and behold, the Emperor’s a kid. This is a pretty significant background point that really should have been mentioned somewhere in the book. Another player mentioned that this RPG is aimed at fans of the Abney Park so they already know about the Emperor’s age. But more than half of my player’s haven’t heard of Abney Park before and are only playing due to the magic keywords of “steampunk” and “airpirates”. Hell, a couple of us don’t even like Abney Park’s musical style (not saying its bad, just not to our tastes). Still the upside to this is that it gives me the perfect reason to include dinosaurs now. After all, a thirteen-year-old Emperor might just thing that pterosaurs are “cool” and demand his scientists make some. :-) I’m totally not wanting to have flying dinosaurs attack the crew at some point. Honest.

Finally, an apology to Xanatos’ player. I had expected the fight against the Condor to go on for most of the session. But the player’s this week were unusually focused and competent :-) so I was stuck making stuff up as I went towards the end. This resulted in Xanatos getting arrested which had the unforeseen consequence of effectively side-lining the character for next week. Thankfully, the player was a good sport about it was okay with playing an NPC for the next session (William).

Next time Trouble in Helium City, Part 2

WikilinksHelium City, Jeremiah Belforet, Condor’s Flight, Lightning Pistol

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 3

The Tribulations of Scabby Jack, Part 3

Kicking down the door to the inn, they dragged the badly injured Jamie inside. They startled a purple-haired youth leaning on a broom. 17-year-old Storm was still half-asleep from celebrating his birthday the night before and hadn’t appreciated being in work early the next day. He was rapidly becoming tired of working as the innkeeper’s gopher.

After lying Jamie on one of the tables, the Doc went to work patching her up. As he did this, Constantine walked over to Storm. Perhaps concerned that the ambush in the alley may be part of a general attack on this Nimbus and her crew, turned to Storm and paid the youth to run a message, warning the rest of the Nimbus’ crew.

With a couple of extra Helios in his pocket (more than a professional message runner would make in a week), Storm raced to the docks. He first warned the crewmember (Billy) who was on watch by the Nimbus’ gangplank. Then he ran on to a dockside bar where most of the crew was spending their time ashore. His job done, Storm quickly ran back.

Doc had patched up Jamie to the best of his abilities but there was only so much that he could do; Jamie would still need a couple of days of bed rest. The decision was made to return to the Nimbus and “get out of dodge” for a while. Before they left to head back to the ship, Constantine approached Storm and offered him a job (for some reason that was totally not to do with introducing a new PC). Storm thought hard … for about a second. Continue working as a minimum-wage bar slave, or join a crew of misfit mercenaries? No question really. He quickly agreed, popping into a back room to get his things. He returned with his two prized possession, a tea & coffee dispenser (looted from the bar itself) and a huuuuge battleaxe. When asked if he knew how to use the weapon, he merely shrugged. Constantine started to wonder just who he had invited aboard.

With everyone aboard, the Nimbus quickly departed. The plan was to head somewhere and lay low, give the crew time to heal their wounds and come up with a plan. They weren’t down with Port Helena just yet. No one attacks the Nimbus crew and gets away with it; Laura Lasko was going to pay.

After a day’s travel, the Nimbus pulls into High Tortuga. Just like its 17th century namesake, the skyloft was dominated by pirates and was a veritable den of criminals and treachery. Also home to that most hallowed of airpirate traditions, taverns. And lots of them. Almost as soon as they had docked, Xanatos leaped onto the skyloft and raced into the warren of dockside taverns (which made up at least 10% of the skyloft’s buildings), intent on getting very, very drunk.

Sighing, Constantine donned his best dress and went in search of his younger brother. He eventually found the plastered Xanatos and dragged the drunk back to the ship. In a drunken stupor, Xanatos confessed his love for Constantine, kissing is older brother. This was something that was Never. Spoken Of. Again.

The next morning, with Xanatos confined to the ship and the crew given explicit instructions to not let him off, the officer’s headed off into town. The Doc, accompanied by Storm, searched through apothecaries and markets looking for toxins and anti-venoms. After a day’s searching, he managed to acquire several vials of rattlesnake anti-venom that he hoped he could refine into a weaponised venom. Constantine hit the boutiques looking for a new dress (his brother had ruined the last one by throwing up on it the night before) and parasol sword. Zeke and Jamie (who had recovered enough to be able to walk around) visited the shipyards. They had plans for the Nimbus. Jamie wanted to add extra weapons to the Nimbus, a pair of tail chaser cannons.

It took some convincing, but Captain Constantine eventually agreed to the installation of a pair of Long Cannons. At the same time, workman also installed partition walls, forming a private cabin for the Captain. The upgrades took a few days and when they were done, the Nimbus and her crew were ready to return to Port Helena and to confront Laura Lasko.

The next morning, the Nimbus arrived a short distance from the Mt St Helens. In order to avoid warning Laura or anyone working for her, they had taken the decision to make landfall and hike up the southern face of the volcano. Entering the crater from the rear (away from the side blasted out by the 1980 eruption), they climbed down into Port Helena.

Jack Cutter’s mansion was easily accessible and after evading a guard patrol, they hopped over the wall into the bushes at the back of the grounds. They found William in the garden practising his archery. The automaton “boy” told them that his Jack was in a meeting. It took a bit of convincing, including promising to honour their original deal to help William run away, but William agreed to try and get Jack to come to the garden. They tried to explain to Jack what they suspected about his business partner and their arguments were reinforced when she strode into the garden flanked by several armed guards. Without any explanation or monologuing, she ordered to the guards to kill everyone.

They fanned out to engage the guards and Laura, assisted by Jack and William (who turned out to be quite adept with his bow). After a brief (and fairly one-sided battle), Laura and her minions were quickly overwhelmed and defeated.

In gratitude for uncovering the machinations of his (now former) business partner, Jack gave them a reward of 1’000 helios. Jack still had a lot of work ahead of him determining just who in his organisation was loyal to Laura and whom he could trust. 

The Nimbus left Port Helena for possibly the last time later that week. Not willing to hang around any longer and risk being the target of any retaliation from those loyal to Laura. They only stayed long enough to give William enough to sneak out and make his way to the ship bringing 1’500 helios and a Needle Rifle with him as payment.

Next time Trouble in Helium City, Part 1

Wikilinks: StormHigh Tortuga

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 2

The Tribulations of Scabby Jack, Part 2

The crew rushed aboard The Nimbus as fast as possible; the enemy airship’s propellers beginning to rev up as it advanced. Constantine was in a bad way, in no position to give orders. As soon as they were on deck, Zeke took temporary command, yelling out “Goggles down, cannons up!” He sent Jamie (still carrying William over her shoulder) down to the gun deck and put Xanatos on the lightning cannon. Constantine, who at this point was seriously considering getting some fencing lessons, he sent below decks in Jonathan’s tender care. Zeke tries to spy the airship’s flag in order to determine its affiliation or intent but the ship is flying no colours, almost as if its trying to mask its identity. However, it appears the enemy crew has been a little careless as the ship’s name is clearly visible, The Revenge. The name unfortunately means nothing to anyone.

Casting off from the pylon, the crew decide to run, seeing no profit in engaging the enemy airship. The chase was a close thing, the enemy airship managing to get a number of shots off with its bow chaser long cannons. Working together, the crew managed to get away from the chasing airship; Xanatos tweaking the engines, Jamie goading the crew, and Constantine promising to buy everyone a drink if they got away.
With the enemy airship lost in the clouds and that Captain patched up, it was time to get some answers. Namely why no one had told them that the “boy” they had come to rescue was in fact an automaton. Williams explained that Jack Cutter was “a crazy old man” who was “mad with grief.” After the death of his wife and infant son, Jack travelled to Desolation City and used his contacts to “acquire” a doll-type automaton that resembled a young boy. The reason why Jack didn’t mention that Williams was an automaton was that he’d long begun to believe that William really was his son.

Now that was settled, the Nimbus set course for Port Helena. However, William wasn’t done, he had a bombshell of his own. He was tired of pretending to be a little boy for crazy old men and aging spinsters and he wanted the crew of the Nimbus to take him with them. Constantine was very resistant to the idea, something about not getting paid if they didn’t take William back to Port Helena. Xanatos suggests that William allow them to take him back to Jack and then make use of the man’s delusion to rob him, giving the crew the proceeds as payment for taking him away. Some of the crew’s comments seemed to offend William and he introduced them to a new word, fleshists; people who are prejudiced against automatons.

Jamie, reveals that she has been obsessing over the weapons that Scabby Jack’s guards were armed with, needle rifles. Xanatos suggests taking a couple as part of the payment for “kidnapping” William. Zeke seems hesitant about crossing Scabby Jack. Somehow, during the discussion, the subject of first mate comes up during which Constantine accuses Zeke of being mean to him. Zeke counters by pointed out that he’s mean to everyone but Jonathan. William, in a misguided and poorly executed attempt, tries to get Jonathan’s support as a fellow automaton but the response he gets is vague and non-committal.

Eventually, the Nimbus pulls into Port Helena and William is escorted back to his overjoyed “father.” Flush with helios, they head back into town. Whether or not they plan to stick around and honour their deal with William is still up for debate. But for now, rum and food and good times beckon.

Using their newfound wealth, Constantine and the rest of the “officers” decide to spend the evening at something a little more upmarket than the tavern they spent their last night in. Spirits flow freely and during the evening Xanatos, who has proudly declared on a number of occasions that he can “drink like a fish,” proceeds to get profoundly drunk. He’ll wake up the following morning with a black eye (the working one) with no memory of what he did to deserve it. Jonathan objects strongly to alcohol; but whether that’s due to being an automaton or a doctor is unclear. Constantine proceeds to flirt with every girl in the tavern, which leads to Zeke, and Jonathan discussing who has to make sure the captain doesn’t get into trouble. Eventually the evening ends up with Constantine retiring with a partner for the night, Xanatos bruised and unconsciousness on the floor, and Jamie and Zeke discussing the gunnery sergeants plan’s for extra guns on the Nimbus. Jamie’s plans are … radical to say the least. Involving major structural design changes to the Nimbus’s hull.

Morning arrives. Xanatos wakes up to discover his black eye (along with his hangover). Its hinted over breakfast by the amused looks from everyone but Jamie that Xanatos may have earned his black eye by hitting on Jamie.

After breakfast, Zeke heads out to pick up any mail (a couple of personal letters to the crew and a bill addressed to the captain) and send a letter to his wife. Whilst out and about, he sees a ship moored at a dock on the opposite wall of the crater. There’s something familiar about it and as he gets closer he notices the distinctive bow and tail chaser long cannons and the name painted on the side. He hurries back to the tavern to inform the rest of the crew.

Zeke and Jamie decide to head the portmaster to see if they can determine the registry or owner of The Revenge but the portmaster refuses to divulge the information and they are unwilling to force the issue. Meanwhile, Constantine has put on his best dress and sought out a tavern that the crew of The Revenge are known to frequent. He tracks them to a tavern owned by Cutter Merchant Services, the trading company owned Scabby Jack. Inside, he finds several members of the Revenge’s crew clustered around a table at the back. They’re all wearing a uniform with a company logo stencilled on the back, Cutter Merchant Services. He’s about to try and get close to wheedle some information out of them when he notices one of them has a bandaged ear. It’s the man that was holding a knife to William’s neck on the barge. Not wanting to risk being recognised, he quietly slips out.

It’s clear to everyone know that the kidnapping may have been an inside job. Constantine, Jamie and Zeke decide to head up to Cutter’s mansion to warn him. After finally convincing the guard to let them in, their attempts to warn Jack are frustrated when instead of meeting with Jack, they are met by a middle-aged woman who introduces herself as Laura Laska, Jack Cutter’s business partner. They say that they have important business to discuss with Jack. She responds by saying that Jack is indisposed, spending quality time with his son. As business partner, she is perfectly capable of dealing with any company business matters. Constantine is most insistent, saying their business is of a personal nature. However, Laura is stubborn. Jack left specific instructions not to be disturbed. She is certainly willing to pass on a message though. Highly suspicious of her, Constantine just tells her to tell Jack to get in touch with the Nimbus as soon as possible.

Regrouping back on the ship, everyone meets up in the sickbay. Constantine takes the opportunity to announce the results of an (offscreen) election for first mate. Zeke appears to have won the popular vote but is disqualified. Something about Zeke borrowing money from the captain to buy something without telling him first. After a bit of back and forth where its revealed that the captain borrowed the last of Zeke’s cash a while back to buy an armoured corset, Jamie is chosen as First Mate.

They decide to return to the tavern. As they make their way through town, they are encircled by a band of men armed with cutlasses. Without any preamble, the leap in to attack. Constantine fares better this time around, spending most of the fight dodging and fighting as soon as they get into melee combat. Jonathan tries Queensbury rules but soon resorts to street brawling. Xanatos exchanges blows with another couple. Jamie’s luck however runs out as one of the attackers seriously injuries her. Seeing this, Zeke surges through the brawl, hacking and slashing at the enemy. As soon as all the attackers were disabled, the crew dragged Jamie off the street to the tavern. Leaving the bodies for the Watch to find.

Next time, The Tribulations of Scabby Jack, Part 3

Wikilinks – Laura Laska, Cutter Merchant Services, The Revenge

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 1

The Tribulations of Scabby Jack, Part 1

We begin in that most traditional of places, an inn. It’s early in the morning, early being defined as the hour hand of the clock only just hitting double digits, and the Nimbus’ command crew have dragged themselves out of bed, looking for breakfast. They’ve spent the last few days squandering the helio’s they scored on their last job relaxing at Port Helena, a sleepy community of merchant’s that doesn’t object to strongly to “mercenaries” as long as they don’t make their illicit activities too obvious.

While they’re arguing about what to have for breakfast, who’s paying, what certain crew members got up to last night, why on earth do they have a one-eyed pilot and a one-eyed engineer (“Because between the two of them we have a pair of working eyes.”) and whether Captain Sirocco has done anything about lining up another job, the door to the inn opens and a lad a few years their junior scans the inn’s patrons. Spotting the party, he walks straight over to their table and inquires if they’re the crew of the Nimbus as his boss has a job for them if they are. The lad, who looks less than impressed by their bickering and banter, informs them that the boss is one Scabby Jack, and he’s prepared to pay them a good amount of helio’s for their efforts. Although the lad did hint that the only reason that they’re being hired is that they’re the only ship currently in port.

After finally getting the captain to delay breakfast until after the meeting, the lad led them across Port Helena. A pall of steam from the geothermal vents lay over the town like early morning fog. They eventually get to an estate on Helena’s upper terrace. The house is surrounded by railings and a pair of cannons are situated rather conspicuously on the front lawn. Jamie studies them as they walk past, noting that their barrels are longer than usual and the cannonballs are shaped more like rifle bullets. Guards armed with needle rifles patrol the grounds.

Inside, the décor is gloriously tacky. They are shown into a large, wood-panelled, study where an overweight and middle-aged man sits behind a large desk. He gestures with a withered left hand to a series of chairs lined up in front of the desk and introduces himself as Jack Cutter. Jamie, ever observant, notices as she sits down that a seam in the floor runs around the chairs; almost certainly a trap door. Saying nothing, she sits down but prepares to leap up at a moment’s notice.

Jack doesn’t beat about the bush, the reason why he’s called them here is that his boy, William, has gone missing, kidnapped by persons unknown. There is a near faux-pas moment when Captain Sirocco asks if William was good-looking in an attempt to determine if there was a motive other than money for his disappearance. Jack, misreading Constantine’s intent, virtually years “HE’S EIGHT!” in response.

Once that is cleared up, Jack hands over the ransom note he’d received. He wants the crew of the Nimbus to get his boy back for him. When asked how he wants it done, Jack is frank. “I love my boy, but I ‘aint handing over 10 grand. I do that, and the next time it happens they’ll ask fer 20. No one messes with Jack Cutter.”

Jack is willing to pay the crew of the Nimbus 3’000 helios for rescuing his son; 1’000 upfront and the rest when they return with William.

After getting a description of William, and noting that it was unusual that Jack had no paintings or photographs of his “beloved” son, they accept the job. Constantine and Xanatos immediately set off to have their “long delayed” breakfast while Jamie and Zeke return to the Nimbus to being preparations for departure. The crew, returning in dribs and drabs helps load the last of the provisions and they are done by the time that the Sirocco brothers return.

The kidnappers had left instructions for the ransom to be dropped off at 4PM at a point some hundred or so miles south of Port Helena. Departing at midday, the Nimbus arrived at the site several hours ahead of schedule and took the opportunity to conduct a high-level flyover to reconnoitre the site; pretending to be a simple merchant airship leaving Port Helena bound for ports south (and eliciting “fly casual” jokes).

Their flyover gave them the layout of the location but they were too high to get any specific details like the number of people present or if William was down there. They did manage to locate the old pylon where they were supposed to moor up and the canal barge they were supposed to bring the ransom money to.

The crew put their heads together to come up with a plan. In order to convince the kidnappers that they had the ransom, they decide to fill several sacks with stones and pebbles harvested from an abandoned quarry in order to simulate sacks filled with money. Xanatos and Jamie worked together to modify the Nimbus’ grappling hook launcher to shoot a weighted net which they could use to snatch up young William if a quick getaway was needed.

As the clock inched towards 4, they finish their preparations and head out to the drop off site, typing up at the pylon. Through telescope, they can easily make out several armed men on or around the barge, one of whom has a knife to the throat of a small boy. The Captain and the rest of the “officers” climb down the pylon and load their sacks into a hand cart left at its base by the kidnappers.

A dirt path leads through the long grass towards the canal and as they approach, they are challenged by the kidnappers. Yes Scabby Jack sent us, yes we’ve got the money, no Scabby’s back at Port Helena. The kidnappers seem upset at this but only for a moment. Firing a flare into the sky, they draw cutlasses and leap to attack.

They split up to engage the crew of the Nimbus. One on each party member except for Zeke who seems to warrant two attackers. He engages both in a displayed of flashing cutlasses, acrobatic dodges and waving great coats. It takes a little effort to incapacitate the first one but once he’s down, the second is a pushover. Whilst attempted to disarm him with a shoulder strike, he catches a lucky blow, cleaving the man’s arm off. Looking around, Zeke rushes off to assist his captain who doesn’t appear to be doing too well.

Captain Sirocco, drawing his steam pistol, has been using the cart as cover; keeping it between him and his attacker. The cart is only small but it does cause the kidnapper to lean over if he wants to strike Constantine. Exchancing sword strike and gunshots, the two combatants have injured each other by the time Zeke runs over to assist, but the captain is looking a little worse for wear. Zeke finishes off the kidnapper with a quick one-two.

Across the battlefield, a seemingly unarmed Xanatos faces off against an armed kidnapper. It turns out that the one-eyed engineer whose nickname is amongst the crew is “dead eye”, also deserves the nickname “two-fisted”. The youngest officer, slips on a pair of knuckledusters and lashes out at the kidnapper. First breaking his nose and then, after holding his own for a while, lashing out with a devastating right-hook, sending the man crashing to the floor.

Meanwhile, Jamie has made short work of her attacker, taking him out in just two shots. Unobserved by enemy and ally alike, she slips into the water and climbs up the far side of the barge. Taking careful aim, she shoots at the man holding William hostage. Unbelievably, she misses. Merely grazing the man’s ear. The shock is enough to make him drop William, who scrambles clear. A few seconds later, another kidnapper is lying bleeding on the floor.

Jamie, being the first of the Nimbus’ crew to see William close up, realises that something is slightly off about the young boy. His skin and eyes are just too perfect. He’s an automaton. While she’s digesting this fact, and her crewmembers deal with the captured kidnappers, she hears banging from inside the barge. Following it, she discovers and frees the family of bargefolk the barge belongs too.

After exchanging pleasantries and a promise of help whenever they need it, the Nimbus crew set off back to the ship. As they get close, they notice one of the lookouts waving at them and frantically pointing at something.

In the distance, rising up from behind a hill is another signal flare, followed closely by an airship.

GM Commentary :-)

The first session was a little truncated since we went through the basic rules at the start, what the numbers mean, how dice are rolled and read, that sort of thing. The result of which was that an adventure which is supposed to take only a session overran at the end. No to worry, the break point between part one and part two was convenient (almost as if I planned it that way). We were also down a player for the first session. Jonathan’s player was unable to make it this week (he had let me know the week before). Luckily we didn’t need the medical automaton’s skills this week, although he’ll need to patch up the captain pretty quickly. Double lucky is that the player owns a (PDF) copy of the book so he should at least be familiar with the basic rules.

I do need to reread the rules on combat I think as there was some discussion as to whether you can use Firearms to defend against melee attacks and whether you can defend against a point-blank firearm attack using Swordplay. In the end, to keep the game running, we decided that if gunfu can be used in Equilibrium to defend against close combat attacks than Firearms can be used defensively for the time being. I also need to keep a better eye on reloading during combat. Of the two firearms using characters, only was using a revolver, the other was using a Steam Pistol. He really should’ve been reloading between each shot (either shooting every other turn, or splitting his pool).

 

Next time, The Tribulations of Scabby Jack, Part Two

Voyage of the Nimbus – Session 0

Character creation session went well. Five players in total and a pretty interesting mix of characters forming the core of the Nimbus’ crew.

We’ve got a cross-dressing Captain (Constantine Sirocco) who rules more through force of personality than force of arms. Somehow he’s managed to piss off a NeoVictorian by the name of Jeremiah Belforet. Don’t know how yet, the player left the whys and whens up to me. Constantine’s younger brother, Xanatos, is the Chief Engineer. With his short temper, I dread to think how long the Nimbus’ poor engine will last under his “tender care.” But the kid is a genius mechanic so he should be able to hammer the dents out. These two PCs already seem to have a catchphrase, “I’ll tell mom!” which I suspect is going to be used to drive each other insane. Following on in the grand tradition of Leela of Futurama fame, our one-eyed Chief Helmsman, Zeke, has decided that depth-perception is for chumps. A born skysailor (or skypirate in less polite company), Zeke’s probably got more experience working on airship’s than the rest of the (PC) crew put together. The Nimbus’ Gunnery Sergeant is Jamie Torrent, a crack shot femme fatale with her own stalker. And last, but by no means least, the Nimbus has probably the only medically trained automaton in existence. Quite how Jonathan Neuffe, an Automaton Autocrat, came to be so well trained/programmed in the medical sciences is a mystery. And like all mysteries, he ‘aint telling. As well as being a doctor, he throws a damn fine right hook. There’ll be no messing about in his sick bay.

Character creation went smoothly enough seeing as we only had one copy of the book. In hindsight, I could have done with printing off more than just two copies of the Character Creation Cheat Sheet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone had actually read the campaign blurb on the sign-up sheet. Normally, getting players to read anything about what sort of characters are and aren’t appropriate for a specific game is a chore so it was a nice change. By the time we got to sorting out Airship Skills, all the various skills were already covered by one person or another in the party so people were free to chose what they wanted; either enhancing a skill they already had or gaining a new skill to act as backup to another character.

Sorting out the schtick was relatively painless. After pointing out that bordello was disallowed (mainly due to the character’s ages) the player’s ran down the list quickly. After a brief discussion, they settled on Mercenaries. Not exactly the most unique choice, but a serviceable one. And to be honest, pretty close to how most “adventurer groups” could be described. I do sense trouble ahead, simply by the number of eyes that lit up when they saw Demolitions on the schtick’s skill list. :-)

Finally we got to Airship Creation. When given the choice of using a tweaked version of the pre-statted ship in the book or customising their own stock Tigerfish, they immediately jumped on building their own. Zeke’s player took charge at this point, assembling a list of features and weapons grouped into either “neccessary” or “optional”. There was some back and forth, but they eventually settled on a design. The Nimbus is not as heavily armed as the Cordelia having two less cannons, and it only has one grappling hook launcher. It does however have a bow mounted Lighting Gun and extra armour plating. Being a Mercenary ship, they didn’t need to take any special features for their schtick, with the possible exception of a Sick Bay and Weapons Locker. They did pick up a Solid Rocket Booster for those quick bursts of speed during chases. Surprisingly however, they chose not to purchase any cabins so all the crew sleep in hammocks on the gundeck. No fancy cabin for the captain either (to the disappointment of his player). They still have 10ARPs of space which I believe they’re holding on to for any upgrades or additional features they discover they may need once play begins.

There was no time to go through the rules of the game with anyone, and no time to into any great detail about the setting, other then reiterating the campaign setup. There should be time for that in the actual first session.

Next time, The Tribulations of Scabby Jack

Airship Pirates RPG – Voyage of the Nimbus

Just started running a new game on Tuesdays, Airship Pirates. The game is based on the music of Abney Park (although I have to be honest that it’s not to my tastes).

It’s 2150. The Earth’s recovering from the Great Apocalypse of 1906.

From the steampunk sky-cities of Isla Aether and High Tortguga come the airship pirates. You hoist the Jolly Roger, spin your propellers and take to the skies. Yours is a life of adventure, plunder and infamy.

The American wilderness lies below. Beast-haunted wastelands are criss-crossed by the tracks of freedom-loving Neobedouins. Armoured railroads connect the Emperor’s widely scattered domains.

In the walled, fog-shrouded cities, people huddle in forced Victorian squalor, lorded over by the upper classes. The Emperor’s clockwork policemen patrol the streets and the ultimate threat of the Change Cage hangs over those who would rebel. Rising from the dockyards, the frigates of the Imperial Air Navy patrol the clouds, hunting pirates and threatening the sky cities.

—-

The game is based on an idea presented in the core rulebook. More information can be found on the website I’ve set up for the game.

It is a tradition at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, that every youth spend two years fending for themselves in the wilderness beyond the community before they are considered adults. Each year, the latest crop of hopefuls are given a wad of cash, command of an airship of their very own and told not to return for another two summers.

A ship, a crew barely ready for shaving and a hold full of rum. What could possibly go wrong?

Legends of the Second Age – The Elemental Inheritance – Chapter 2

Leaving the hectic docks behind, Deegan climbed into the sky above Artaxis until the city lay beneath him. Spreading away from the docks and the sprawling lower city, Artaxis rose up on a series of terraces carved in to the northern face of the island’s central mountain. Seventy-five thousand people crowded its streets while above them the skies were filled with ships from every nation bringing in produce and commodities from across the world.

Having lived in the city for five years now, Deegan knew its streets well, his skyboard giving him a view of the city that few of its inhabitants could enjoy. At the same time, the skyboard had turned more than a few heads. As far as he could tell, his board was one of a kind; he’d never seen anything like it. Deegan assumed that was because no one other than him was crazy enough to build and operate such a device. His father, proud of his son’s accomplishment, had said as much on more than one occasion.

After taking a second to enjoy the view, he swooped down towards the second terrace, looking for Black Street. The second terrace was home to a number of merchant districts mixed in with middle class residential streets. It was a much nicer and cleaner place than down in the lower city where Deegan and his family lived.

It didn’t take him long to find it and he set down in a small square a short distance from his destination; his sudden appearance drawing more than a few startled and curious looks which the young boy ignored. Jogging the last dozen or so yards, Deegan couldn’t help but smile. From the Docks to the Second Terrace in under five minutes without using the board’s booster, that had to be a personal best. Handing over the package didn’t take much longer; “Port Authority Messenger service sir, got a package for you … sign here … here’s your package sir, have a nice day.” With the package delivered, Deegan made his way back to the docks to wait for his next job.

—-

His skyboard strapped to the back of his shirt underneath his backpack, Deegan walked through the marketplace, his mind on food. It had been a long day for him, seeing him run ragged scooting back and forth across the city on over a dozen deliveries. He was exhausted and the heat of the summer day had left him parched, his skin red from the harsh sun. In hindsight, skipping breakfast this morning to get to work early had probably been a mistake; he was starving.

He stopped at one of the stalls, attracted by the smell of fresh fruit. “Hey there Little Thief,” the stall owner said as he saw Deegan approach, “anything catch your eye?” Deegan blushed; he hated that nickname even if there was no malice behind its use. He wasn’t a thief; it had all been just a misunderstanding.

Not long after moving to Artaxis, his father had taken him to the market. Deegan, nine-years-old and wide-eyed with amazement at being in such a big city for the first time, had wandered away from his father. He had stopped in front of a fruit-seller’s stand and studied the fruit on offer. There were so many colours, textures and scents; so many varieties of fruit that he had never seen before. Picking up one that had looked particularly tasty; he had glanced around looking for his father. Seeing him just a couple of stalls down, Deegan had started to run over to ask him for the money to buy it. Before he could get more than a couple of steps, his arm was grabbed and he was nearly lifted clear of the floor by the irate trader. “Not so fast you little thief,” the trader growled down at him, “I’ve had enough of you thieving little punks.” Deegan looked down in horror at his hand still holding the fruit and realised what this must look like. He knew what happened to thieves, if they thought he was trying to steal the fruit he’d be thrown in jail if not hanged. Tears streaming down his face, he had loudly protested his innocence. Luckily, his father had heard the commotion and strode over, demanding to know what the man was doing to his son. The trader had eventually been convinced by the boy’s terrified tears and his father’s calm words but ever since that day, the trader had taken to calling him by that nickname.

“Hey Jayden, you still got any kumo fruit in?” Deegan asked scanning the stalls wares.

The trader smiled and reached under the stall. “I always keep one back for you.” He held the succulent fruit just out of Deegan’s reach. “You got money?”

Deegan rolled his eyes and fished out a couple of coins, dropping them into the trader’s hand. “Thanks Jayden,” he said as the trader handed him the kumo and he took a deep bite, savouring the taste of the juices. “See you tomorrow.”

He continued on his way, chewing on the fruit, lost in thought. It wasn’t far to the pub where his father would be waiting for him. It had been a hot day and he was looking forward to the promised drink; he certainly felt that he deserved it. Tomorrow was one of the days that he was at school and if tomorrow was as hot as today, then sitting in that stuffy classroom was going to be torture. At least he wouldn’t be there all day and he’d be free in the afternoon to hang out with his friends or just mess around on his skyboard.

Not paying attention to where he was going, he almost walked into someone standing in his way. “Excuse me,” he started to say but stopped when he looked up and saw the Imperial uniform hidden underneath the man’s cloak. The man looked down at him, one hand on the sword on his belt. He wasn’t alone either; two other similarly attired men were with him. Before Deegan knew what to do, the two other men had positioned themselves behind him. He swallowed nervously and held his hands up. “Umm, guys, if this is about the flag, you can have it back. It was just a stupid prank. No need to get nasty about it, right?”

The Imperial soldiers looked at each other in confusion for a second. “This is that kid from last night?” One of the soldiers said.

“Talk about coincidence” another said.

“Wait up,” Deegan thought to himself, “if they’re not here for … and if I’ve just said … awww crud.”

“Quiet!” The soldier in front of Deegan barked. “Arashi, Vigilant Fletcher would like a word with you.”

He barely contained a sigh of relief. “Sorry guys, I think you got the wrong guy, my name’s …”

“Vigilant Fletcher was specific.” The soldier said firmly, “He said ‘Bring me the boy with unkempt wine-coloured hair under a blue bandana, a red armband on his arm with the number 46 written on it and a strange plank-like object strapped to his back.’” That certainly described him. “He was most insistent.”

“Okay … creepy … but I’ve had a long day at work so I’ll think I’ll give talking to a crazy sorcerer a pass.” Deegan tried move away, but he was surrounded, and from the way they were standing, they weren’t about to let him just walk away. This was bad, really bad. He stuffed the rest of the kumo into his mouth.

“You ‘aint going nowhere ‘cept with us kid.” One of the soldiers behind him said.

“And if I say no?” Deegan said, chewing on the remains on the fruit as fast as he could, the juices dribbling out of the corner of his mouth.

“Then,” the soldier said sneering and unsheathing his sword an inch, “we’ll make you and I can’t guarantee that you won’t get hurt in the process. In fact, I can guarantee that you will.”

Deegan nodded. “Uh huh, are you allergic to kumo fruit?” Confused by the sudden non-sequitur, the soldier could only stammer that he wasn’t. “Good.” Before the soldier could respond, Deegan spat the pulped fruit into the man’s face. He screamed as the kumo’s juices blinded him; the men behind Deegan were too stunned to react as he pushed past their blinded captain and took off running down the narrow street. They recovered quickly and soon began chasing the fleeing boy.

Weaving through the crowded streets whilst being chased by three Imperial soldiers was not how he wanted to spend his evening. Especially since he didn’t have the energy for it. He had no idea who this “Arashi” person was, but the Vigilant had described him with near perfection and he had no intention of finding out what the man wanted with him.

“Stop thief!” The lead soldier yelled as he pushed his way down the street.

“Great,” Deegan muttered through gritted teeth, “a smart soldier, just what I need.” Yelling that while chasing a kid down the street increased the chance that someone might help them catch him. Luckily, most of the merchants knew the local street rats and pickpockets by sight and Deegan wasn’t one of them. However, all it would take is one meddling do-gooder and those soldiers would get him; he also needed to avoid any city guardsmen.

A hand reached out and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt as he ran past an alleyway, pulling him inside. His own momentum took his feet out from under him and he would have fallen to the floor if not for the tight grip on his shirt. “Lemme go!” He yelled, trying to twist out of the grip holding him.

“Quiet!” A voice hissed as he was span round, pressed against a wall and a hand clamped across his mouth. Deegan looked up with wide, panicked eyes, at the person restraining him. It was a boy a couple of years older looking down at him with harsh grey eyes. “If you know what’s good for you you’ll keep still and shut up.” The boy pressed himself against Deegan and glanced towards the street. Shadows seemed to flow like water from where they were situated as Deegan watched, pooling around them both. A tingle ran down his spine, his hairs stood on end; this was magic.

“I think he ducked into this alley,” a voice yelled from the street. The three soldiers charged into the alley heading straight for where Deegan was being held against the wall. Deegan suddenly started struggling with the boy holding him, convinced he was working with the soldiers.

The boy glanced back at him with a pleading look in his eyes. “Do you want to get us both caught?” It took a second for Deegan to realise that the words had been spoken without the boy moving his lips. Somehow, the boy had projected the words directly telepathically into Deegan’s head.

Deegan watched with a growing sense of panic as the soldiers neared them. However, instead of trying to grab them, they ran straight past as if they didn’t see the two boys at all, disappearing around the corner. The boy stepped back, releasing Deegan and letting out a sigh of relief. “That was close.” He said aloud. As he spoke, the shadows receded from around them, returning to their place. “You’re welcome by the way.” Deegan stood against the wall, staring at the boy in front of him, his so-called saviour. The boy’s eyes looked out from under a fringe of black hair, and despite the cocky smirk on his face, they were harsh and cold. There was something about him, something familiar almost as if Deegan knew him somehow even though he knew that they’d never met. It must be magic he thought, something to “help” him trust the strange boy. However, after the run in with the soldier’s he wasn’t about to take anything or anyone on faith right now, especially a strange magic-user who coincidentally shows up to save him from being dragged to an Imperial Vigilant. “You’re younger than I thought you’d be Arashi, and shorter. Come on, we better get going.”

If the boy had wanted to convince Deegan to trust him, then using the name “Arashi” was bad mistake. Deegan took a step toward the boy until they were almost chest-to-chest. “I’m not going anywhere with you or anyone else.” The boy opened his mouth to say something but he was cut off as Deegan glared at him. “And my name is Deegan.” He reached forward and grabbed the boy’s arms, moving too fast for the startled boy to respond. Deegan’s knee shot up and crashed into the boy’s groin causing him to double over and groan in pain.

“Stupid brat,” the boy hissed as he rolled around on the floor, “I’m trying to help you.” However, Deegan had already gone.

—-

Robert leaned back on his chair, sipping at his pint. The cold ale was a welcome relief from the heat. He didn’t envy his son working today, he had the benefit of the tug’s cab for shade, but Deegan would have had no protection from the burning sun. He looked forward to sharing a drink with his son, a drink Deegan would surely need. Robert smiled sadly; perhaps things could have been different if his own father had tried a little father-son bonding, but such basic human interaction was probably beyond that man’s understanding.

His train of thought was interrupted as Deegan burst into the tavern, looking around frantically. Deegan’s face was flushed and dripping with sweat; he’d obviously been running. “Deegan, over here,” Robert called out over the din of the pub, waving him over. At the sound of his voice, Deegan’s head whipped around to face him and for the first time he saw the panicked look in his son’s eyes; something was wrong.

“DadsomeguysareaftermeimperialsoldiersIthinksomeVigilantsentthemexcepttheykeepcallingme…” he said without stopping to breathe before his father cut him off.

“Hey, calm down and take a deep breath,” Robert said, standing up and grabbing Deegan by the shoulders; the boy looked about ready to collapse. “Start from the beginning, what’s wrong?”

Deegan reached across the table, picked up his father’s nearly full pint mug and gulped down the drink thirstily. “These guys, Imperial soldiers, just tried to grab me off the street.”

“What! Why?”

“They said a Vigilant sent them,” Deegan said, still out of breath. “A Vigilant Fletcher.”

Robert’s grip on his son’s shoulders tightened to an almost painful degree. “What was that name you just said?” He demanded sharply. Deegan repeated the name and Robert closed his eyes, grimacing.

“Dad,” Deegan said, confused by his father’s sudden reaction, “what’s wrong?”

Forcing a smile, Robert relaxed his grip and began propelling Deegan towards the back door. “Nothing, let’s get you home.” Refusing to answer any more questions, Robert hurried through the streets, half dragging Deegan behind him.

Minor League Origins Issue #1 – SAM

Sam ignored the looks from the other people in the library. You’d think it was the first time they’d seen a scruffy street kid sitting at a computer. The fifteen-year-old boy thought they were probably surprised they couldn’t smell him from across the room. Sam wasn’t surprised though, thanks to his genetic alterations, his sweat gave off no scent and had odour neutralising properties. Even though the original purpose of the alteration was to enhance his stealth capabilities, he was probably the only teenage boy on the planet who never had to worry about deodorant and showers.

As he was tapping away at the keyboard, scrolling through another newspaper report on a missing teenage boy dated nine months ago, something made him look up. Two men stood at the front desk talking to a library assistant. They showed something to the assistant, a badge Sam assumed as they verbally identified themselves as NYPD detectives. Then, one of them asked if “she had seen this boy,” presumably showing her a photo at the same time. Sam knew he was in trouble when she glanced in his direction before pointing him out to the plainclothes detectives. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two men approach, weapons still in holsters but ready to draw at a moment’s notice.

“NYPD,” said one of the men as he flashed a badge, “we need you to come down to the station with us to answer a few questions. We’ve had reports of a kid matching your description stealing bags and purses in the area.” The other man stood back, his hand by the holster on his belt.

Sam sized the two men up, calculating his chances. Slowly, he pushed his chair away from the desk and stood up. The two men took a step back. “I ‘aint done nothing,” Sam said, forcing a teenage whine into his voice, “I’ve been in here all day. Ask anyone.” He looked around at the other people in the library, as if looking for support. Not that he expected any; it seemed that he and the two men had developed the superpower of invisibility if the way that everyone was ignoring them was anything to go by.

“Don’t make this any harder than it has to be kid.” The man with a hand on his gun said.

“Fine,” Sam said with an exasperated sigh of defeat, “I could do with a warm place to sleep tonight anyway and a police cell is as good as any.” There was a pause as if the two men hadn’t expected Sam to give up so easily. They quickly recovered and the first man pulled out a pair of handcuffs, turned Sam around and cuffed his hands behind his back. Each taking an arm, they began to lead the unresisting boy out of the library. As they reached the front desk, way from the other library patrons, Sam made his move.

He effortlessly snapped the handcuffs as if they were made of cheap plastic; broken pieces of metal clattered noisily onto the tiled floor. Sam tore his arms from the men’s grip while they were still unprepared, surprising them with his strength. One of the men recovered quickly, reaching to draw his gun. That act designated him as the most immediate threat and Sam’s training took over. He jabbed upwards with the heel of his right hand, striking the man hard in his nose. The crunch of breaking bone and cartilage barely had time to sound before Sam followed up with a solid punch to the stomach with his left fist. Sam’s face betrayed no emotion as he pressed his attack, spinning around and kicking the man in his face while he doubled over from the punch. The man was sent sprawling across the front desk, knocked unconscious by the kick. A quiet click, the distinctive sound of a safety being disengaged, reminded him of the existence of the other man. In the reflection of a computer monitor on the desk, Sam saw the man had drawn his weapon and was taking aim at the back of his head. With split second reflexes, he span around, drew the unconscious man’s gun whilst knocking the other man’s gun out of his hands, and aimed between the startled man’s eyes, thumbing the safety. The force of Sam’s blow had shattered the bones in the man’s hand and the gun tomahawked across the library, embedding itself in the wall. It all happened so fast that the man didn’t get chance to react to the pain as he stared in shock down the barrel of the gun. In less than five seconds, the tables had been turned.

Sam blinked, his eyes seeming to refocus on the gun he was holding and his aim wavered slightly. If the man thought that he could take advantage of the boy’s hesitation, he was wrong. Flicking the safety back on, Sam tossed the gun into the air, caught the barrel and brought the grip smashing into the side of the man’s temple. At the last second, he pulled his blow, not wanting the shatter the man’s skull. The man was instantly knocked unconscious.

By this point, chaos had broken out amongst the few people in the library. Most were fleeing away from the scene of the fight as fast as they could and within a minute, the only conscious people left in the front were the Sam and library assistant.

She was standing frozen at the front desk, shocked into indecision about whether to flee or not. “You … you attacked those police officers.”

“Not cops,” Sam muttered as he knelt next to the man he had pistol-whipped and started to search him.

“Pardon?”

“I said, these men weren’t cops.” Sam said, holding the man’s wallet and pocketing the cash. There was no point in checking for and identification, he was certain that any he found would be fake. “Legitimate police officers don’t cuff you without reading your rights, at least the clean ones don’t. These men were armed with HK45 semi-automatic pistols firing .45 ACP rounds. Definitely not standard NYPD issue.” He found a cylindrical object in an inside jacket pocket which he pulled out and showed the women. “And what kind of cop carries a suppressor? If I’d gone with these two, I’d have ended up face down in an alleyway with a bullet to the back of my head. Just another dead street kid. Just another statistic.”

The woman watched as Sam removed the spare ammunition clips from both men and stuffed them along with the first man’s gun into his dirty backpack. “I don’t understand,” she said, “if those men weren’t police, then who were they?”

Sam laughed, “Trust me, you don’t want to know.” Shouldering his backpack, he began to hurry towards the door. He did not intend on being around when the real cops showed up; summoned no doubt by one of the terrified library patrons cowering in the back. With his luck, the local capes were probably less than a block away already.

Watching him leave, the woman’s eyes strayed towards the handgun embedded several inches into the brick wall. To embed it so deeply into the wall from across the room would’ve taken a great deal of strength. She looked back at the boy about to disappear on to the street. Even with his small but powerful build there was no way he should have been able to do that, unless … “Are you some sort of metahuman?”

Pausing at the door, Sam looked over his shoulder. “That’s one way of putting it.”

“Just who are you?”

“Huh,” Sam grunted, opening the door and leaving, “that’s what I’m trying to find out.”

—-

“Commander Mayhew,” the soldier said as he approached the raised platform at the back of the control room whilst carrying a computer tablet, “we’ve had a confirmed sighting of Echo Three at a public library in Harlem.”

The man sitting at the desk looked down at the soldier. “Report.”

“Unit 7, posing as NYPD officers, located the target and they … uh ….” The soldier stammered to a stop as the Commander fixed him with a withering glare. “They attempted to apprehend the target but …”

“Let me guess,” the Commander interrupted, “they disobeyed orders, did not call for reinforcements, and the target neutralised them without breaking a sweat.”

“Um … yes,” the soldier said, glancing down at the tablet, “Unit 12 was able to intercept the ambulance taking Unit 7 to hospital for treatment. They’re bringing them in now. According to witness statements made to police who responded to a 911 call, an unidentified teenage boy attacked two men claiming to be NYPD officers when they tried to arrest him. Despite being handcuffed, he was able to defeat and disarm both of them within seconds displaying obvious metahuman talents. Apparently, even though he had a clear shot, the boy chose not to kill.”

Interesting, thought the Commander. Not only had Echo Three chosen not to kill the men who had tried to capture, but he hadn’t eliminated any of the witnesses. Evidence that the behavioural conditioning had broken down. Had that occurred over the last month Echo Three had been on the run or did the breakdown begin before his escape. Perhaps those scientists at Project Apex overestimated the effectiveness of their brainwashing techniques. Nonetheless, now he had yet another loose end to take care of. “Sergeant, once Unit 7 has arrived, escort them to the sick bay for debriefing. After they’ve made a complete report, instruct the medical team to process their bodies for organ harvesting.”

“But sir, their injuries are not life threatening!” Protested the soldier.

“They may as well be,” Mayhew said quietly. “One, they disobeyed a direct order to call for back up immediately upon locating Echo Three. Two, they attracted the attention of the authorities to what is supposed to be a covert retrieval operation. Finally, I’m going to have to explain to the Board of Directors why footage of an escaped supersoldier prototype has appeared on the news.” Mayhew turned the computer screen in front of him around to show the web stream of a local TV news channel. A heavily pixellated video, probably mobile phone footage, showed the blurred form of Echo Three effortlessly defeat the two mercenaries. “We are lucky that the quality of the footage is too poor for anyone to positively identify Echo Three. Nonetheless, The Armoury does not accommodate soldiers who do not follow orders and the Board will no doubt order Unit 7s execution for their part in this debacle. At least this way, their failure may have positive benefits for their comrades in the future.”

Mayhew dismissed the soldier and leant back in his chair, running his fingers through his hair. He needed some fresh air, the control room was becoming stuffy and he needed to work out what he was going to say to the Board.